In Which Phil Collins Is Defended

The sun fell heavy on everything in the late afternoon and I had walked a mile along the tracks of the lightrail MAX, reading from Kraken and taking pictures of industrial buildings across the river. When I finally caught they yellow line and was dropped off near home, I clicked on the Buffy musical score on my iPod and walked, everything coated by the music.
I began my day with an old episode of This American Life. I was feeling a little tired and emotionally shaky, and was in a particularly receptive place to hear them delve into stories of the relationship between music and heartbreak; how often the cheesiest, most overblown pop songs ring the most true when the mood is right (they chose this song to highlight the point, a masterstroke).
This led into a brilliant segment where the narrator of that act, a woman deep in the throes of cheesy pop heartbreak, decides to take it upon herself to write a pop song about her own experience, and is even able to interview Phil Collins himself about the process. She wrote lyric after lyric, and when some veteran musicians were tapped to help her turn some of her emotive scribbling into a proper song, surprise: they chose the one she had considered almost a throwaway, almost too cheesy and simple and basic to even be included. All her attempts at clever wordplay and prosy torch songs didn’t matter in world of pop music. It’s true: all those old songs look flat and trite on paper, but that has everything to do with why they’re so powerful.
Collins wrote ‘Against All Odds’ about his first divorce, and yet now the song is completely ubiquitous in its influence. Anyone who hears it cannot help but feel the truth in it, filling it with their own details like a vase made for them alone. And yet it was just one man in the beginning, one emotion, expressed in a powerfully simple song.
This stayed with me throughout the day and, as I walked home enjoying the BtVS show tunes, I couldn’t help but wish that we, as humans, didn’t make similar efforts to once in awhile translate our feelings into bold, over-the-top songs. Songs big and unabashed and with nothing even resembling subtlety. Like in a musical. But, as Sweet warned in the episode: the cost is high when all you do is sing. I fired up Tweetbot on my phone and proposed that, while it was unrealistic that life be like a musical all the time, would once a month be okay? What if, as a matter of habit, we began setting aside one day a month where we wrapped up everything we had been afraid to say, and put it out into the world?


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