Chiming In

  • Deborah Straszheim

When you say, “I love you,” what do you mean?

If someone asked me that, I’d probably think, “What a ridiculous question. What do you mean, what do I mean? I mean ‘I love you.’”

But it’s not ridiculous at all. The answer could be very telling - and very different, depending on who you ask. It’s also not an easy question to answer; you have to really think about it.

Now try answering it succinctly, with no rambling, no excess words, in three minutes or less. That’s essentially what a love song requires.

No wonder it’s so hard to write one. Maybe that also explains why there are so many different kinds of love songs, and why there are so few, despite the many written, that stand out and get to you every time, no matter how many times you’ve heard them.

It’s been awhile since I’ve heard a country love song that really resonates with me. For some reason, the songs about romance these days seem to fall more into the “lust song” category; as in, “We just met, you’re so hot, let’s get lost down a dirt road.” Flashes in the pan.

I long for a song that really moves me. Something along the lines of...

“I Still Believe in You,” by Vince Gill (written by Gill and John Barlow Jarvis during a difficult time in Gill’s first marriage)

"Making Memories of Us,” by Keith Urban (written by Rodney Crowell for his wife)

"To Make You Feel My Love,” by Garth Brooks (written by Bob Dylan).

I could have picked others, but I chose these three because although they have different sounds and slightly different messages, they have something in common: They explain what they mean by “I love you” without actually using those words. The melodies are all simple; the lyrics, gentle and specific.

Gill sings, “For all the times I’ve hurt you, I apologize, I’m sorry it took so long to finally realize; give me the chance to prove, that nothing’s worth losing you.”

Urban sings, “I want to honor your mother, I want to learn from your pa; I want to steal your attention like a bad outlaw.”

Brooks sings, “When the rain is blowing in your face, and the whole world is on your case, I could offer you a warm embrace, to make you feel my love.”

One of my favorite love songs, “Lady,” by Kenny Rogers (written by Lionel Richie), uses “I love you” twice. But it’s the rest of the lyrics that explain how he feels, that give the song its power. Richie uses tender but direct words to express devotion: “Forever, let me wake to see you each and every morning,” and “in my eyes, I see no one else but you,” and “beside me is where I want you to be.”

Then he ends with, “Cause my love, there’s something I want you to know: You’re the love of my life. You’re my lady.”

That’s what he means.

#countrymusic #VinceGill #KeithUrban #GarthBrooks #lovesongs #songwriting #love #music #thisthingcalledlove #Elvis #songs #emotion #countryartists #blog #bloggers #musicblog #musicbloggers #heartbreak #sing #artist

  • Deborah Straszheim

How can you not love a song that starts, “Work sucks, truck died, hot as hell outside, my A/C just broke?”

The words in Chris Janson’s latest song might be about the “Power of Positive Drinkin’,” but what the song really demonstrates is the power of relatable lyrics.

At first, they could be viewed as almost stereotypical country lyrics: My woman left me, my truck died, I think I’ll go get drunk.

But you know why those phrases are so commonplace? Because everyone can relate to feeling like their life in the total can. And the last thing you want to hear when things are terrible is to think positive.

There’s little worse, when you’re feeling spent, overwhelmed or dead-ended, than to have someone lecture you about the power of “positive thinking.” That doesn’t make you feel better. It doesn’t change anything. All it does is make you feel like they don’t get it, like they don’t know the half of it, and there’s no point in talking to anyone. Then you’re really alone.

I should say at the outset, I don’t drink. At least, not unless I’m at a wedding or other event where I might have a glass of wine. It’s not a rule of mine; I just don’t particularly like it much. It doesn’t make me feel better, only hung over the next day.

But that aside, I totally appreciate this song. Because what Janson does is turn this well-meaning but misused phrase on its head, writing a song that effectively says, “Screw the power of positive thinking. I’ll take the power of positive drinking.”

I suppose the song could be viewed as one about drinking your troubles away (which I don’t advocate and don’t believe helps.) But I actually think it’s a song about something else; getting what you really want when you feel awful, which is some relief from whatever pain or situation you’re dealing with.

If you’ve ever been down, you get this right away. And better yet, that turn of phrase makes you laugh.

Plus, the song is so extreme, it’s funny. Most people don’t go into a bar and slam 10 beers, unless they want to throw up.

Janson sings, “Beer one, tastes like a beer; beer two, a little bit better than one: beer three, beer four, yeah that was pretty damn good, so hand me one more.” By beer five, he’s “coming alive” and by beer ten, “life’s good again.”

Two other things about the lyrics that make them work so well: They’re specific. They’re not philosophical or abstract. They’re concrete. And they’re active. His work sucks. The truck died. The woman he loved packed up half his stuff and took off. She’s never coming back.

So he’s going someplace where he knows he’ll be able to sing a new song about his life, which is what he really wants, what he’s really looking for.

And how many of us have ever felt like that?

Power of Positive Drinking ~ Chris Janson

#countrymusic #ChrisJanson #lyrics #drinking #positivedrinking #single #hit #songwriting #example #blogger #musicblog #musicblogger #blog #drink #beer #powerofpositivedrinking #alone #phrase #song

  • Deborah Straszheim

If you write songs, you know pain.

Why do I say this? Because for whatever reason, songwriters, like most creative people, seem to feel the highs and lows of life with more intensity than the average person.

On the one hand, this can be a curse. If you’re intense, reflective and feel things deeply, you can despair.

On the other hand, it’s a blessing. Because it’s exactly this quality that drives you to write, whether words or music, gives you empathy and makes your words relatable. You write almost because you have to. You have to get it out.

Songwriters make reference to this all the time. Perhaps the most obvious example is Anna Nalick’s, “Breathe (2 AM)” She sings: “2 a.m. and I’m still awake writing a song, if I get it all down on paper it’s no longer inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to.”

Think of all the songs about heartache, pain, loss, haunting memories and drowning sorrow in a bottle. It’s so universal it’s almost cliché. Only it’s not. Because there are always new ways to write about old pain. Just like there are always new ways to look at love. If it weren’t so, there would be nothing new ever written.

Even angry songs have their roots in pain. My daughter and I got started songwriting this way. We both had relationships that ended in shocking fashion, one right after the other. I’d been convinced, utterly convinced, that the man who ultimately walked would be the last person who’d ever hurt me. Then, within weeks, she was similarly devastated and shocked.

Suddenly, there we were; she in her 20s and me in my 40s, in this pain. I lay awake in my bed, sobbing. She cried and cried. It was beyond horrible.

Then we got mad. And we started to write. Her first, then me quickly after. I recall vividly the day she called with the riffs for the song released this week. She sent them to my phone and said, “OK, Mom. I want the song to be called, ‘She Can Have Him.’”

“All right,” I said. “What do you want it to say?” By then, I knew all of the details of her relationship and she knew all of mine. We had plenty of material.

“I want it to say, ‘I don’t want him, she can have him, he’s an asshole,’” she said.

I thought for a minute. “Dear, I’ve got that covered,” I said.

Of course, you can’t write a song that says, “He’s an asshole.” I mean, you could, but it would never sell. But more importantly, it doesn’t say anything.

Better to say how he was an asshole. Even if you know, as I did, that I made my own mistakes in the relationship. We all do. But as I mentioned, songwriters reflect. That’s part of the pain.

But back to the song. Instead of, “He’s an asshole,” I chose, among the lyrics, “He’ll stick around to get some, even when he knows they’re done…” because that is, indeed, low.

After I sent them, she replied with a grinning devil face Emoji.

“Too mean?” I asked. “Or just mean enough?”

“Just mean enough,” she replied.

And we laughed and laughed together. It was like coming back, slowly but finally, to life.

Breathe (2 AM) ~ Anna Nalick

She Can Have Him ~ Cassie Urbany

#songwriting #breakups #heartbreak #motherdaughter #songs #lovesongs #breakupsongs #CassieUrbany #AnnaNalick #pain #breathe #angrysongs #breakupmusic #country #countrymusic #music #song #lyrics #sorrow #memories

© 2020 All Rights Reserved. Background photos by Beth Harrison.