The Light

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When love hits you, no really hits you, every part of life seems inconsequential, and very little seems rational.  The Light is one of Sara’s most powerful songs and one unsung hero tucked away in the shadows of Brave, Gravity or Love Song. But make no mistake this song is heartbreakingly beautiful and fully deserving to be near the top of her discography. When you realize that you are looking into the eyes of the one you love everything seems right.

Her lyric “who I was without you, I can do without” sums up the power of this song and finding your true love. A mere nine words that articulate the realization that life didn’t matter before the moment you realized that the one you love has been in front of you the entire time. Have an education or a job? Have a lover, spouse, dog, mailbox, dry cleaning bill, leftovers in the fridge, a credit card bill, or an overdue library book? Well, it doesn’t matter anymore.  All that matters is that you want to be a part of this new found life so badly the players in this song will go back on there own rules, morals, values, etc. just to be. If you’ve ever been passionately in love with someone, whether that love is good or bad, you can understand this feeling.

The piano arrangement in this song is off and running.  Like the flutter of a new love, it never stops.  The piano mimics the emotions of new love. It’s like butterflies in the stomach, bumps on the forearms, and a racing mind that again, never stops.

In this song Sara writes that the past no longer exists. It’s only the future now that matters because you are reborn and ready to finally live life, for you are now at the side of the person you need to be with until life calls you home. To the light.

 

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She Used To Be Mine

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There are times when I think that Sara has a direct window into my soul.

She Used to Be Mine is her newest song off her upcoming album What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress, and is the instant signature track from the musical score that she’s written for the stage production titled, Waitress. It’s a stage adaptation of the 2007 movie that bears the same name starring Keri Russell. Waitress tells the story of Jenna, a woman who works at a diner, is stuck in a stifling, abusive marriage, and yearns for the better life that she dreamed about when she was younger. Then she learns she’s pregnant. In this song Jenna reflects on her current situation. Reality sets in. She is broken. Defeated. She is at a crossroads. She finds herself in a position in life that she didn’t expect, ask for or want. Within the lyrics she is coming to terms with the dreams and qualities that she feels that she has lost about herself. Her introspection is something we can all relate to. Life rarely works out the way we expect. Especially when planned as bright eyed kids with our entire lives ahead of us. Personally I relate to these words an uncomfortable amount. It’s a reoccurring pattern I’m finding with most of Sara’s music.

In the first verse Sara is articulating what most of us can relate to. That life has not worked out as hoped. The chorus is sung as if she is singing back to her former self that she’s trying to desperately remember. It’s a moment similar to a someone trying to breakthrough the syndrome of amnesia. As if reflecting back on the past will somehow spark the memories she needs to change the present. The second verse becomes a bit more poignant and her tone changes as the subject matter becomes more adult. The internal fight between former self with dreams, and current self with realities is combative, and in the end, she returns to the chorus worn out and beaten. Ready for the reality and fears brought on by the leads impending unexpected motherhood. What I love the most about this song is how much control that Sara demonstrates in her voice. She never over-sings and seems to know just how much to push the volume to convey raw, authentic, gut wrenching emotion. It breaks your heart in a way that is true Musical Morphine. Sara is a master storyteller with her lyrics and her voice is the picture book that keeps us turning the page. Waitress opened on August 2nd in Massachusetts at the American Repertory Theater and ran until September 27th. The reviews were positive as expected. I can’t wait to see Waitress when it finally makes its way to Broadway.

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Waitress
Book by Jessie Nelson
Music and Lyrics by Sara Bareilles
Based upon the motion picture written by Adrienne Shelly
Choreographed by Chase Brock
Directed by Diane Paulus

Official Synopsis:
Jenna, played by Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller (Beautiful), a waitress and expert pie maker, is stuck in a small town and a loveless marriage. When a baking contest in a nearby county offers her a chance at escape, Jenna must choose between her commitments and her dreams. Her customers, co-workers, and the town’s handsome new doctor all offer her conflicting recipes for happiness—but Jenna ultimately has to decide for herself. This poignant and uplifting new musical celebrates friendship, motherhood, and the courage it takes to pluck a long abandoned dream off the shelf. Featuring music and lyrics by Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles (“Brave,” “Love Song”) and directed by Diane Paulus (Pippin, Finding Neverland).

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Morningside

I’m going to come out and say it. Morningside is about sex. And the guilt that follows a night of, ahem… passionate love.

When your single and have no real desire to settle down the acquisition of the fuck buddy comes into play. (I feel comfortable using the word fuck in this post since Sara uses it at least a dozen times during each performance.) The fuck buddy is that friend with benefits that maybe you see once a month, or if you’re lucky, once a week.  There’s no real mental attachment. But what happens when one person in this relationship starts to fall for the other? If not reciprocated it can be an eye opening realization that you aren’t getting what you really want out of love. But old habits are hard to break, especially when they bring rain you desire.

Morningside is the metaphor Sara uses to describe the realization that you have fallen again to the temptation to that certain someone that you know will never be more than a fuck buddy. The morning after when your cuddling under sheets, each is reminded of the real person you are with. The sun is up. Sight is clear. Hair is messy. Breath is bad. Heads are free and clear of alcohol. The only thing that remains is a slight headache and the sting of forgetting not to forget.

Morningside is the first and only song on Little Voice that features the The Rhodes piano, which was a popular instrument in jazz music in the late 1960s. Musical legends like Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock were advocates of its sound. The amplification of the strings allowed them to be heard much more easily in groups when compared to an acoustic piano. I have to think the usage of the Rhodes piano by Sara was more than just a producers choice. Perhaps it’s inclusion is to amplify her message that in times of weakness her internal resolve needs to amplified in order to break the habit of having someone get to her on her Morningside.

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River

Sarah’s Joni Mitchell cover of River is really splendid. This is a song of escape. It’s somber. And brutally honest. Sara’s version was recorded live, however I’m not sure where. If you know, please let me know in the comment section below.

To understand the lyrics I think it’s best to recognize that Joni Mitchell is Canadian. I think it’s safe to assume that she has wonderful holiday memories of skating on a river or pond in the cold Canadian air. Her current life in L.A. while nice, has to be weird come holiday time. Joni associates the holiday with snowmen, cold temperatures, boots, jackets and mittens. In L.A., or “The Land of Make Believe”, they have to fabricate the holiday.

River realizes the duality of the holiday season. On one side you have family, joy, friendship, love, warmth and a reason to celebrate. On the other side you have a those dealing with mounting money problems, perhaps the first holiday since their Mother passed, or in this case a broken love. It’s in this broken love where Joni Mitchell crafts honest lyrics where the person realizes they are the root of the relationships demise. That they’re the reason why they left. This realization is the worst, and magnified ten fold at the holiday’s.

So a river to skate away on seems just the thing to do, if you want to disappear.

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Many The Miles

Sara has created a clever song in Many The Miles. It’s a song of strength, introspection, vulnerability and longing, but it’s not a song about love.

There is usually one line in Sara’s lyrics that’s the smoking gun to derive it’s meaning. In the case for Many the Miles it’s: “I made up my mind when I was a young girl, I’ve been given this one world. I won’t worry it away.”

If you were to miss this one line it you might think Many The Miles is a song about a long distance relationship, and you’d still be right. Well partly right. The reality is this song IS about a long distance relationship, but its not with a boy or someone else in the present. It’s with herself. A younger version, set in the past, that’s full of conviction and self-confidence about who she is and where she wants to go in life. Sara crafted a poetic love note to her naive, innocent, and ambitious former self. When she was young she had a good handle on who she was, and more importantly who she wasn’t. But as she’s grow older she does worry. Perhaps too much. She has red letter days, daily struggles and responsibilities. It’s for this reason Sara’s older self is longing for confidence her younger self once possessed.

Turning back the clock, or crafting a 88-mph time machine to snap us back to a simpler time is everyone’s dream when life allows us to peek behind it’s unforgiving curtain. When we’re young the world is vast, limitless and ours for the taking. In Many the Miles Sara reminds herself of this younger Sara’s mindset and for a moment she’s set straight again by traveling the mental miles to be by her side.

Much like Gravity I like how Sara bookends the opening lyric re-inforceing with new vigor that she needs to get back and listen to that young girl who was not going to worry her life away. She certainly could have faded the song out beforehand and we’d all be none the wiser. But Sara and her producer felt it necessary to come back to that lyric. Now that particular vocal feels more confident. It’s like Sara has successfully reminded herself to not worry her life away so that she can enjoy all that life can give.

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Yellow

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Artists have many reasons why they cover other artists music.  At their core they are still fans. Music resonates with them just like the average teenage girl, college kid or mother of two. They happen to have a platform when they can pay tribute, if they so choose, to specific songs they connect with. Yellow is song originally written and performed by the band Coldplay for their 2000 release Parachutes. Sara covered the song while playing at the PC Richards Theater in Tribeca, NYC on Jan 27th, 2011. During the songs presell she states that she got the Coldplay album while in a Study Abroad Program in Italy and that Yellow is one of her “all time favorite songs.” It’s a song that got her through some dark times. Her live version recorded in 2011 is just her and the piano, and her strong connection with Yellow translates as she sings. The YouTube link from the user itsalluncharted is below.

That premise of the healing power of music is the cornerstone of Musical Morphine. This healing power enters the body through the fingertips, and travels up the tendons like a superhighway to the brain. While it’s on its way, the music seeps into the bone marrow… depositing little hits of musical morphine along the way allowing the listener to survive for another day.

Chris Martin, the front man for the band Coldplay revealed on the Howard Stern show that the lyric “yellow” has no meaning and that it’s was only meant to be a place holder for another lyric. But nothing worked quite like Yellow and so it stuck. I think, like the color, it’s brilliant. Yellow takes on the persona of an everything word. A fill in the blank, in the moment Smurfy kind of word. It can be a replacement for love, comfort, happiness, pain, sadness, joy. As a result we are a part of the song, forming our own lyrics like a choose your own adventure book and joining along in the musical process. For me Yellow in the lyrics is the word that represents the unconditional love one person feels for someone else. Be it a spouse, child, parent or lost soulmate or friend. There are certainly a few people in my life that I’d bleed myself dry.

What does Yellow mean for you?

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Come Round Soon

Come Round Soon (CRS) is the second of six tracks included on Little Voice that are re-imagined songs from her debut album Careful Confessions. The first CRS entry can be found here. Come Round Soon V2.0 (CRSv2.0) is a nice evolution of the original. In CRSv2.0 Sara has the time to flesh out the composition to become a full and very tight song. It sounds polished and and the song showcases her growth in self editing. All the silliness from the original has been stripped away, the sound effects, the A Capella opening and the result is a tight, well crafted song that I am sure if given the appropriate time and resources to Careful Confessions, CRSv2.0 would have been the only recording of the song.

Lyrically the song is similar with one glaring differentiation:

I can’t believe that he’s gone.

This lyric shows up only at the end as backing vocals and it clears up any misconception about the original CRS version’s meaning. It places the topic of CRSv2.0 squarely on the shoulders of the notion of an important person in her life that has stolen her heart, and she can’t forget him no matter what. She tries, but he’s the one thing she can’t live without. She tells herself “maybe he’ll come round soon.”

Side note: When played live by Sara at her concerts Come Round Soon is played on an electric guitar and she riffs off bluesy chords and signs passionate lyrics. Jack White would be proud. The song seems more tortured and her soul in way more pain. Personally I like this version (CRSv3.0) much better. A YouTube video from Lauren Leialoha is below.

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Bright Lights and Cityscapes

As I write the last entry for Once Upon Another Time I’ve come to this conclusion: The over-arching theme of the entire E.P. is trust.

Song one, the title track, Once Upon Another Time was all about realizing you can trust in yourself. Stay promotes trusting in the moment. Lie To Me is all about trusting your instincts. Sweet As Whole celebrates the mental release that is the result of trusting in letting go about what others think. The trust from the finale song Bright Lights and Cityscapes comes from the idea that through friendship love will find a way.

Hollywood movies and television sitcoms have plenty of examples of the opposite sex best friend syndrome. When Harry Met Sally and Friends, Ross and Rachel being some of the most notable. Sarah’s heroine watches her best friend make repeated bad decisions in love. Despite her disapproval, she supports the friend, stands by them, encourages them, comforts them. She compares his dysfunctional lover to the city’s bright lights with the shiny objects that can distract one from the moment. All the while Sara’s heroine is wishing for him to notice her. It’s a painful emotional roller coaster of emotions. For she is the one true love. She would need no second chance because relationship failure is not to be if they would be together. She just needs him to come around and see that she has been standing beside him the entire time.

On a side note: Bright Lights and Cityscapes was the encore song on her 2014 Little Black Dress Tour. She sang this a capella with three other women tight around one microphone. It’s stunning in its simplicity, and the heartbreaking nature of the words were amplified. In case you didn’t get to experience it live it’s on YouTube and can be viewed below.

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Sweet As Whole

To date, this is the most bizarre song in Sara’s entire collection.

If you’ve ever seen Sara in concert you know she has no problem dropping the f-bomb. The juxtaposition of her sweet demure exterior, Catholic upbringing, beautiful voice and smile with a self-deprecating personality and raunchy potty mouth is rather fun to experience. Sweet As Whole is Dr. Demento after dark and a song I listen to when I need a good laugh. In the lyrics Sara takes everything you’ve always want to say to someone, and says it with a Richard Pryor filter.

A confident personality, realizing self worth and not taking someone’s shit are consistent themes in sara’s lyrics. Another common theme is passive aggressive communication laced with severe bitchiness. In several songs Sara masks dark topics with happy and bright compositions. In Sweet As Whole (Punny for Sweet Asshole) she abandons all the passive aggressive pleasantries and gets right to the point.

That guy’s an asshole.
That girl’s a bitch.

I would guess that her time on tour with Ben Folds has given her the confidence to write, and record a good a old cuss and pirate song like this. Ben Folds is no stranger to a “explicit” label on the songs he writes. Army, Rocking’ the Suburbs, or his cover of the Dr. Dre Bitches Ain’t Shit are just a few. Ben Folds is even singing vocals on the chorus with Sara, and the end of the song gets a bit silly. It’s not to hard to image them all huddled around the baby grand piano with frosty mugs filled with some hoppy IPA all swaying and rocking as they sing. The fact that Sweet As Whole resides on the e.p. doesn’t shock me either. An e.p. can be an artists opportunity to release hold over material to satisfy the ravenous fan base before the next full length record. They’re also a good opportunity for experimentation. So on the e.p. this song sits nicely. If Sweet As Whole was not on Once Upon Another Time and left to a full album release like The Blessed Unrest, it would stick out, kinda like that guy who’s an asshole.

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Stay

Imagine an evening where you meet someone.

Perhaps at a simple bus stop, at a summer outdoor garden, a crowded bar, or a random Saturday night party you weren’t going to attend because it’s on the roof top of your eccentric co-workers apartment complex. (Let’s call him Steve, you know, the one with the OCD, the affinity for video games and the knack for hanging around far too long? Yep, that one.)

But this random evening, say at Steve’s apartment, you do meet someone. You lock eyes, and for no logical reason you know there’s a connection. Their gravitational pull is intoxicating and you walk up and say “Hello.” Introductions are superfluous because in another lifetime you’ve already known each other. Your souls, connected centuries ago, you both just need to be reminded how. You never leave each other’s gaze. You talk like old childhood friends that flirted but never went steady, and you get consumed in the company while witnessing true beauty.

Before you know it two hours pass, and your rides have left.

Four hours pass, and so too has the buzz from the Manhattans.

You hold hands, maybe you kiss. Maybe your heart beats faster than you thought it could.

By now the birds are starting to wake, and it’s their chirping that ushers in the sun. With sunshine comes reality—You have to get back to your normal life. A normal life that doesn’t include this rekindled soul mate.

Stay is a song that has a very powerful message: Sometimes it’s only tonight that matters. Not the consequences. Not the ramifications or even the meaning. Sometimes this type of moment between two people defies all logic and is more than needed, it’s necessary, because what has transpired is bigger than just love at first sight. It’s a reconnection of souls. It’s a moment that yearns for a run at the airport gate, or standing outside a house raising a boom box over your head. But time is the enemy, because no matter how much we plead with each other to stay, responsibility creeps back in, we have to return to our respective lives and then the moment is lost forever.

Gonna feel it baby
Oh I don’t wanna cry
I know we’ll get to tomorrow and say goodbye
That’s why I’m asking for
Tonight


Stay tonight
Don’t come morning, don’t come light
They may be lies, but say that we’ll be alright
Say that we’re gonna be alright
Tonight

I encourage you to listen to this song several times in a row and at each listen focus your attention on specific instruments that make up the composition. They each represent how in-sync the two people are in Sara’s lyrics. The strings, light piano, rhythm guitar and even the backing vocals are all musical layers that work in concert with each other while contributing to a crescendo that is the overall magic and message of Stay. By the end Sara’s passionate vocal exudes so much pain, heartache and love, it’s easy to identify with her thoughts, especially if we connect with the words. The way she holds out “tonight” before the final chorus, conveys those aforementioned emotions, and just like the night we don’t want it to end.

#andrepeat this song again and again and it never will.

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