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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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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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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One Sweet Love

A second time around this song is still anxiety filled.

One Sweet Love (OSL) is the first of six tracks included on Little Voice that are re-imagined songs from her debut album Careful Confessions.

The premise of the song has remained the same: Imagine a world where you realized your one chance at true love was in the past. Maybe you didn’t recognize it until they were gone.  Maybe you fucked it up. Did something stupid. Or worse yet, you did nothing about it and unwillingly allowed the one true love to just slip on by? Then with this knowledge you’d spent your next formidable years obsessively trying to recreate the circumstances for that mysterious or perhaps a new one true love to come around.

However, this version of One Sweet Love (OSLv2.0) is very different from it’s twin. The original OSL was void of Sara’s signature piano and featured a light guitar sound and expressive bass line. The Little Voice version has her piano featured prominently, the instrumentation is full and it feels right.  OSLv2.0 still starts with the lone guitar to pay its respects to OSL but that’s about it for the musical similarities. When the piano chords come in, the song builds to a full sound with many layers of instrumentation.  Listening to them one after the other I get the sense that Sara was rushed to get the Careful Confessions version out.  Maybe she just ran out of studio time, or money, or both. Whatever the case OSLv2.0 feels complete and the original, while nice, now seems thin and plays like a version that would be recorded in a acoustic session 7 years into the future. OSLv2.0 showcases how Sara has grown as an artist at this point in her career by expanding on her earlier work and improving upon it.

 

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Vegas

Sin city is all about the chase. The money, bright lights, and easy fame. It’s the chase of the slot machine, the get rich quick card game, the successful double-down, and for the musician it’s the chase of easy success.

The premise is this: Just get me to Vegas, I’ll make it big, because that’s what people have told me. Sara crafts lyrics that are almost a warning to a younger self to be careful of what society has deemed important. The person Sara is talking to seems to have been a big fish in a small pond and is naive in chasing all the tempting cliche’s. Move to Vegas, or NYC and become a small fish in a big pond. Lose 10 pounds, and your identity too. Perhaps move to the Mexican border because someone told you that’s what’s necessary to gain success and be happy. But older Sara knows happiness is not something you chase. It’s a stable state of mind that comes from within. Success is just a result from years of sleepless nights, touring and hard work.

Vegas has a groove that is reminiscent of the first half of Careful Confessions. The instruments are tight and her vocals and composition of the entire song plays like an upscale lounge song by someone performing in Vegas. My favorite part is at the end when she growls out the vocals “Vegas please.” A rare break in her usually crystal clear voice that I find very refreshing.

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Love Song

Ah, the start of her sophomore effort. Love Song. Much has been documented about this song, and for good reason. It’s an upbeat tune that debuted as an iTunes free download in 2008 (which I did download… thank you very much) about the relationship between an artist and the artist’s main squeeze. All artists can relate to this simple premise:

I’m not gonna write you a love song
‘Cause you asked for it
‘Cause you need one, you see

I’m not gonna write you a love song
‘Cause you tell me it’s
Make or breaking this
If you’re on your way

All artists, Singer/Songwriters, Musicians, Photographers, Painters, Illustrators, Poets, Would Be Poets, and Hopeless Romantics have been there. Confronted by others with this passive aggressive comment… “How come you don’t (fill in the artist muse here) about me? Don’t I inspire you? Don’t you love me? You need to (fill in the artist muse here) about me!”

This is Sara’s You’re So Vain. But in the Carly Simon’s version she was most likely talking about Mick Jagger, and most people thought it, leaving the inside joke, well, not so inside. Sara’s Love Song is a bit more discrete. Her song, while masked as a love song to a boy, is really a job of defiance against her label, Epic Records. They didn’t like the direction her album was taking and they wanted her to write a pop love song for the album. They also tried to mould her appearance, and ultimately her career into something that Sara was uncomfortable with. Sara stayed true to herself and her reward was her first Grammy nominations for Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Her first #1 hit on the Billboard Top 100. Her first #1 on iTunes, and the single is currently triple platinum.

Triple platinum.

Well played Sara. Well played.

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