Here’s To The Breakups That Didn’t Break Us
[by Norm Ramil / 8ca.music.person]
I think one aspect of dance that I’m starting to understand more and more is its sincerity.
Over the summer we asked you guys, “Why Do You Dance?” So far a common theme in all the replies has been that dance lets you be yourself as you tell a story. To do that well, you’ve got to be sincere.
Maybe that explains why I love those contemporary and lyrical dances so much, where stories come to life through choreography and the performance. Actually, sincerity (and the lack of it) has popped up as kind of a personal theme this year, this summer. More on that in a later post.
So here it is, what might be the most sincere song I’ve ever heard, and why its musicality works so amazingly well:
Ashley McBryde’s “A Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega” was a recent #1 song on the satellite radio country charts, where there’s a little more freedom than what’s played on our local radio stations. And this song sounds NOTHING like anything else on the radio right now. Nothing. Her voice, her lyrics, her band…it’s not what we’re used to. The song didn’t take off on normal country radio, and I wonder if it’s because the song and the artist are just…too…dangerous.
To me, that’s just one more reason to think of it as a perfect lyrical dance song.
This song goes out to…
Ashley McBryde picked a very cool way to start her song, telling us who this song’s going out to.
“To the bag packed, first love-leaver.”
“To the heart-cracked, double-down dreamer.”
“The homesick, for grass that’s greener…”
And there. She did it. Three quick lines and I’m hooked on her music for life. I’ve been all three lines, in a way. We all have or will be.
Bags packed? OK, I know most of you haven’t actually lived with your significant other. But we’ve all wanted to storm out of the room, maybe forever, out of hurt and anger. Nothing serves as an exclamation point quite like a packed bag, right?
Heart-cracked? This is me, owner of a thousand disappointments from the ups and downs of trying to build a business that mixes music for dance teams. I’m a “double-down dreamer,” for sure. You keep pouring in the time and money and hope, knowing it’ll eventually work. But will it?
Homesick: Even if you’ve never actually left home, we’ve all had a moment where we wish we were in a safer, less complicated time and place.
Personally I think it’s the little inflections that give life and emotion into anything, whether it’s a dance routine, a guitar solo, or a singer. Just check out how she sings “homesick” and “mama’s peach pie.”
And there. She did it. Three quick lines and I’m hooked on her music for life.
The rest of verse 1 keeps hitting that raw nerve…not so much about the bad moments that come and go (you can sleep those off) but those rough situations that define an entire month or semester or year (and those are the ones that keep you up at night). Flat broke. Missing someone… By the time she ramps up to the high and loud notes of “the brighter lights,” you’re begging for a chorus that’ll tell you everything’s going to be ok.
Raise a glass to…the breakups???
“Here’s to the breakups that didn’t break us” might be my favorite opening lines to a chorus, ever.
We’re all so used to celebrating wins, or burying losses, or, as athletes, using setbacks as some kind of fuel. But how about just raising a toast to your bad situations?
Her unique voice hooks me again here. She soulfully attacks the “hittin’ rock bottom” line so perfectly. When she sings the “nothing’s going right” line, it almost sounds like a prayer (and I don’t make it to church every Sunday).
Musicality alert: Notice how this first version of the chorus is drum-less, but you still feel like it’s the chorus because of how it seems to resolve the lyrics from verse 1. Plus she sings it like a pure anthem. The drums kick in only at the very end (at “worst day kind of night“), and at that moment, you feel kind of relieved. It’s as if we’ve turned a corner at that part of the song and it’s ok to feel a little more lifted.
We’ve All Got A Number…
Great songs find a way to be universal even if the lyrics talk about a very specific story. Ashley did that in verse 1 and crushes it here in verse 2.
“We’ve all got number that we don’t wanna drunk dial, a good friend we ain’t seen in awhile.” Yes to both. Ugly things from the past that nag at us, because they’re still quietly haunting us in the present.
But you’ve also got “a slow dance left in these boots.” Don’t you?
I think it's the little inflections that give life and emotion into anything, whether it's a dance routine, a guitar solo, or a singer.
Musicality alert: Want certain moments of your team choreography to really pop? Put contrasting sections back to back. That’s what we’ve got going here after Ashley’s done singing the 2nd chorus. First you get a very cool and hazy instrumental solo (more on that below). Then at 2:21 (in the video) it’s her turn to step out front and sing the first couple lines of the chorus all by herself. Ironically it’s that softest part of the song that just sticks out the most, making the loudest statement.
There’s texture behind her powerful delivery
Ashley’s voice and lyrics carry a lot of force, so it’s cool that her backing band provides a lot of subtle texture. This kind of arrangement where one thing complements the other is another songwriting / music production idea that also works great for dancers (think about what this concept does for choreography).
Actually, her whole band just kills it during the entire song. The very first sound we hear is a clean guitar “hook” with a subtle, throbbing effect (guitarists use a “tremolo” device to achieve this). When you turn the effect’s controls down low, you get a sound that’s organic and alive, a little like a human pulse.
That organ adds the perfect amount of texture at all the right moments, warbling along with the soul of the song’s narrative. Notice how it gets more assertive with each song section.
Musicality alert: I need to point out that groove between the drum, the bass and organ. It really comes out at the start of verse 2 (“we’ve all got a number…” at 1:19-1:22 in the video). That snare drum has this cool “thump” to it, which we just don’t see in country or pop music right now. And notice how the backing vocals only come in when she sings the title in the chorus.
The outro. It’s the recap after the final chorus, and a lot of singers like to take a line from the chorus and improvise different ways to sing it. I think another kind of singer would go all-out (imagine what Adele or Mariah Carey or Celine Dion would do at the end).
But Ashley keeps it real (3:01-3:11 in the video): “Here’s to the breakups. It’s that kind of night.” Sometimes the best improv is casual and matter-of-fact, not flashy.
What To Do With A Bad Day…
Chills. And she sings every word, every syllable with a sweet and savory kind of sincerity.
So later this winter during competition season on those days when things just suck, hopefully we’ll remember that it’s an opportunity. Will you make the best of the worst day kind of night? I’ll try if you’ll try.
Got a song that gets to you? You know where to find us!