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Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Oh sweet lord I love the Kelly Clarkson single. I love it in part, of course, because it's exactly what I've been trying to do, musically, the last few weeks, and then Max Martin goes and whips it off with a goddamn American Idol winner. (Who, admittedly, I love.) Dick. But all is forgiven when I listen to it, because when I listen to it I just close my eyes and smile and think about listening to it again, which just makes it sound sweeter.

But let's say, oh no, you've broken up with this breakup song. Or worse, the song breaks up with you! You are rejected! It has brought you so much happiness, but you were too clingy. All you wanted to do was to be with it, but you were a pest, a tagalong. The song does not need you--the song wants to go out clubbing and drinking with its friends and it doesn't want your lame ass along. It realized, quite frankly, that it was out of your league; its last date was with Chad Michael Murray, and yours was with, well, Tortoise. (It'd been a few years.) And so it has kicked you to the curb, and while you might catch a glimpse of it playing from a car radio as it speeds down Ninth Avenue, laughing gaily and slowly breaking your heart again, you will never again be able to fully revel in its charms. At least, not until you bump into each other on the street years later and maybe make plans for an awkward lunch that will never happen.

At any rate, here you are, sitting in your room, wounds smarting from the rejection. It's 7 hours and 15 days later. What's the process of coming to terms with it like?

- You think of when you first met, how for the first five seconds it could very well be Interpol; how the drums then came in and buried the guitars in the mix. You think of how that made you smile, how it promised even more good things.

- You think of its angular features, of the crispness of everything in there, the way the drums sounded trebly without being lo-fi, and the way even the bass stood out, while maintaining a good bottom end.

- You think about the little things it would do for you, the little additions that subtly shifted the arrangement. The chiming guitar in the second half of the first verse, that simple but somehow ecstatic keyboard riff that comes in at the beginning of the second verse. Was it really so wonderful? It doesn't seem like it should be. What sense does it make? Oh, you were drunk at the time. Drunk on love...

- You think about the first time you got to the chorus, how it felt even better than you thought it would--how you saw it coming but it happened all of a sudden anyway. A brief pause and then the wonderful crash. The way it was like the choruses you'd had before, but different, somehow. And then the little variation it threw in! That chord change! A little kinky, but you went for it, and how wonderful it was!

- You think about the things you always loved about it, the small details, especially the rapidly channel-switching muted distorted guitar strums that preceded the second chorus, which just filled you with happiness every time you heard them. And not just because it meant a chorus was coming! You loved them for themselves.

- You think about that breakdown, the one you, again, knew was coming, the one that slowed everything down. You knew that was good. And it sounded good. You knew everything was moving too fast, that it would be fatal. But then, goddamnit, why'd it have to bring in that guitar feedback? It was so good, so perfect. It brought you back out of that breakdown. And then the big solo with all the noise cutting out, leaving the vocals exposed and compressed within an inch of their life to an almost spiritual high, and then--oh! oh!--another chorus.

- You think about that double chorus at the end, doing it more, longer, and it was good. You didn't want it to end. You could feel it coming but you didn't want it to happen, so you held on too tight, you ended on a bad note. The song didn't, but you did.

- You think about the lyrics. The lyrics weren't really great, were they? They were pretty stupid. I mean. Really, you were too good for it anyway. It's a pop song, after all; it never would've lasted.

- You open your little black book and think about calling someone else. Sonic Youth? No, they're too busy these days. Annie? It would be nice to go for some more pop, but it wouldn't be fair; you'd just be thinking of "Since U Been Gone" the whole time. Maybe Liz Phair? Yeah, that's it. It rings and rings but no one picks up. Not even an answering machine. She must've changed her number.

- You go to Craigslist personal encounters and try and find something to soothe your wounded soul. Slunt? That sounds good. Small-time, just like you. Small-time. You know this is never a good idea, but you're gonna do it anyway.