“And dark are my days now that I face them on my own,
So long are the nights now that I’m sleeping here alone
And after all of this time, it still breaks my heart to see you go.
‘Cause nobody knows me, nobody knows me, nobody knows me like you do.”
Imagine. It’s the last song of the night. You drank your wine, you held your partner’s hand. You felt that shiver as the piano moved through the hall and filled your soul. A mist comes over you, and you think of every love you lost, every friend who walked away instead of staying when you needed them. You remember the rain, both spring and winter. You feel your partner’s hand, and you wonder why this one person was here tonight, and no others made it this far. The music reminds you of how grateful you are, and how you don’t want to forget. Life is made of moments like these.
I’ve admired Birdy for a few years, and pop seems natural to her. I say pop, what I mean specifically is solid, engaging songwriting. Delicate, honest, fully formed, and sensitively considered songwriting. Something pure, and young, as she reminds us her heart is. I know many 20-somethings and beyond who would understand what she is trying to tell us. Her newest album, Young Heart, has this beautiful country essence to it. And dare I say Disney? And when I speak of Disney songwriting, I mean it in the sense of it’s warmth, the performative revelations, the highs and the lows, the storytelling, the silence. Always the quiet, just when we want it. Birdy knows the damsel and the heroine, but I don’t think she looks to be either. You get the feeling she is just hopeful that love is still the simple journey that young women were led to believe in. It’s refreshing, as a girl who still craves the angst and contemplation of female songwriters from the Noughties. Though I understand the expression of sexual empowerment young women are currently driven to support, I miss the days a girl just loved a boy, and maybe she wishes it had worked out. So very simple. So very honest. So true.
Skinny Love, a cover of Bon Iver (another talented songwriter), had its own honesty, which when brought to the table by a young woman such as Birdy, blossomed anew, into a gorgeous piano ballad of complex imagery and high notes which made your head ache with grief. This is a purpose of quite some weight, one which I still hope to impart on another myself, when it’s my time.
I fear we tangle ourselves up in the many strings of imposed meaning which society tells us to find. There’s always another reason for something. Another layer; another intention. Is it possible that songwriting will be our last place for the girl with the guitar, who sits under the stars, wishing for joy and comfort? For the pianist, using a church or hall as her makeshift studio, to convey an honesty which she knows others somewhere must relate to? To hone in on the want for security and happiness in relationships with her friends and family. To dream of that person she still shelters her heart from, so many years on. We need her. Don’t make her voice small against the shouts of societal pressures and trends. Let us please, keep giving her a clear channel through the noise.
And let’s not confuse this with depth of thought. By God, we need that in so much of what we do. Especially in difficult times such as these. But depth is found in connections such as what our girl with the guitar expresses; as in this terrifying world, they are all that we have (a nod to my dear fictional friend Bojack here). And there’s a difference between merely allocating meaning to what you say and do, and actually feeling it within your being. And I applaud those who are making sound and feel the words they sing deep within their bones. But not the noisemakers. The intrusives and the aggressives. Grace will always facilitate compassionate response. Shouting is disarray.
So let us raise our dusty glasses, at our empty seats in now forgotten concert halls; the resilient and noble spaces which were once filled by the warm voices of these women. And remember, that if we support them, they will come back to us again, despite this chaotic landscape we tread. Because nobody knows us, like they do.