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Back in 2015, I wrote about Marian Call’s cover of “The Sound of Music,” which unintentionally featured a sassy marmot. She is, in addition to being my favorite songwriter, a wonderful human; her shows always have a strong sense of that familial, “we’re in this together” vibe that really only comes from a certain type of artist. That feeling was party because @snarke and I had several friends in the crowd and partly because it’s sort of the nature of house concerts, but also that’s just the sort of ambiance you get when nerds congregate and get to be thoughtful and sad and joyful and silly all in 90 minutes.
We heard the classics we love–“The Volvo Song,” “Good Morning Moon,” “The Avocado Song,” “Nerd Anthem”–but also some deep cuts, and a new track that’s made possible by her patrons.** She and Seth, who has new album out, have such a wonderful vocal blend.
**Marian’s Patreon helps her to create music year-round instead of every few years.
I managed not to choke up during “Highway Five” and the end of “Grandpa Had It Right,” but just barely. On the opposite side of the emotional barometer, we laughed during “The Elements: Expanded” and bobbed our heads to the beat of “Like This,” which is as close as many of us get to dancing. One of the things I love about attending concerts from artists I’ve previously seen is that there’s a flavor of giggling that says “I’m hearing this for the first time, and I love it!”, and another that says “Ah, there’s the joke that I love,” and the two of them together are harmony. It feels like the emotional equivalent of this.
I looked over at @snarke and @kmlawrence, saw the happiness on their faces, along with other Sea Monkeys and Monkey Adjacent friends in one small room, enjoying amazing music and being together.
Yesterday, @snarke was playing the new Taylor Swift album as we were driving around, and during the intro to one of the songs, I inserted some Willyisms, those filler words that Will Smith drops into his music (see “uh,” “a-HA!”, “whut,” “word,” etc). Many of his characters seem to have the same predilection.
But my extraordinary rapping skills failed that day, because @snarke did not realize the Willenium was upon us; no, dear Reader, she thought I had entered into Boy Band Mode. This delighted me, for it allowed me to revisit the best of all possible singing tropes: The Thing Where The Guy With The Deep Voice Says “Girl,” And Then Has A Sensitive Conversation Via A Pop Song.
Now, we could argue, you and I, about the most beloved, perfectly-executed TTWTGWTDVSGATHASCVAPS, and you would be correct as long as you concluded that it’s “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men, carried by the sonorous stylings of Michael McCary.
Let’s investigate further, shall we?
Girl, I’m here for you
This is the most important section of Michael’s soliloquy because not only does he tell the woman he’s here for her, but he does so in a much more dramatically-deep timbre that we expect. It clues us, the audience which has no real business eavesdropping on this private moment, that what he’s about to say will be incredibly serious and probably seductive. GIRL.
All those times at night When you just hurt me And just ran out with that other fella Baby I knew about it I just didn’t care
This…does not seem to be a great argument. Michael, you’ve spent the last two and a half minutes singing about the woman with whom you’d wanted to spend the rest of your days, the one you can’t let go of although you’ve come to the end of the road. It’s unnatural! You belong to each other. Remember all that? So telling her you don’t care about this apparently long-standing affair is not really accomplishing your objective here. HOWEVER, the manner in which you say “Baby, I knew about it” projects CONFIDENCE, and people love confidence.
You just don’t understand how much I love Do you? I’m here for you
Here, Michael starts to mansplain his love for the One Who Got Away, but then reminds her again that he’s here for her. This is the second time he’s made this claim in less than 20 seconds, but this iteration is different: he says “I’m here for YOU.” Previously, before we all knew each other, it was a lowercase “you.” This is a whole new level.
I’m not about to go out and cheat on you all night (Maybe I’ll forgive you) Just like you did baby But that’s all right I love you anyway (Maybe you will try) And I’m still going to be here for you until my dying day
Michael, being one who’s Here For You, isn’t going to cheat on the Girl, as she did to him. No, instead, he’s going to remind her a third time that he’s here for her, but NOW it’s until his dying day. None of this short-term Hereing For You for our man Michael. He’s in this for the long haul.
(We should be happy together forever)
I’m just in so much pain baby
‘Cause you just won’t come back to me (You and I)
Just come back to me
While the rest of the Boyz butt in on the conversation, our cavernously-voiced crooner informs the Girl that he’s in pain. So much pain, in fact, that he asks her to return to him, but then keeps talking even before she’s permitted more than one second to respond. His “just come back to me” is impassioned, pleading. It’s such an earnest “back” that you’d endorse it for office.
Yes baby, my heart is lonely (Lonely)
My heart hurts baby (Lonely)
Yes, I feel pain too
And as it happens, the “back” was only the beginning, because now Michael is emphasizing syllables all willy-nilly. “My heart is lonely,” he says, adding “My heart hurts, baby,” in case the Girl hadn’t picked up what he was putting down. “He finishes with “I feel pain too,” driving his point home before asking her one again to reconsider. He’s sincere, honest, and singing in the basement’s basement.
So, dear Reader, having examined the evidence, you must surmise, as I did, that Michael and the Boyz presented his / their case in such a mellifluous manner that the track deserves its rightful place as King of TTWTGWTDVSGATHASCVAPS.
“End of the Road” is, and shall forever be, here for you.
Jean Grey School For Higher Learning
1407 Graymalkin Lane
Salem Center, NY 10560
September 27, 2015
Ms. Aimee Mann and Mr. Ted Leo The Both
c/o 2015 High Road Touring
Sausalito, CA 94965
Dear Ms. Mann and Mr. Leo,
First, permit me to express how much I am enjoying your band’s eponymous debut. I have followed your respective solo careers for many years, and your collaborative efforts thus far are exemplary. The songs are intimate, but exude a mature intensity that I find most satisfying. Relaxation is a luxury in my line of work, and I maintain that one must celebrate leisure. A listening party with old friends, a bottle of Stolichnaya, perhaps a hand-picked selection of organic cronuts…there is a nary a greater feast of finery to be had, and listening to your album invariably kindles that sentiment in me. I am quite accustomed to multiverse travel–usually involuntarily–and it is my fervent hope that just once, I shall be flung into an alternate reality where my principal responsibility is to kibitz with David Grohl about The Colour and the Shape over eggs Benedict and mojitos. I remain optimistic.
Some years ago, I enjoyed considerable success as a commercial artist, and while my preferred medium differs from your own, I trust that we share an affection for depth and subtlety. Those attributes shine through most brightly in “The Inevitable Shove,” which is, for me, the pinnacle of your remarkable album. The first time I heard that chorus:
No, you can’t blame the ones that you love But you’re still gonna blame the ones that you love So now I’m steeling myself for the inevitable shove
Oh, how my heart sung then, as it has every time thereafter! I do not wish to appear boastful, but steeling myself to avoid shoving is my area of expertise. It is a difficult and often unacknowledged practice, and the burdens I bear feel significantly lighter because after several decades of doubt and frustration, I know now that someone understands. I have attempted to discuss the matter with my co-workers after substantial field engagements, but they always seem distracted. One of them walked through me mid-sentence. Another simply shrugged and said “Sorry. It’s a tough world, bub.” I cannot avoid steeling–it is a job requirement–but I can alter my perspective on its application. When my skin hardens and the Earth is threatened with complete annihilation, I hum your lyrics to myself and they reassure me that the metallic barrier is only skin deep and not a reflection of my character.
And truth be told, I do frequently blame the ones I love; coping with family members can be hellish. Especially sisters. But I remain a work in progress, as are we all, yes?
I appreciate your time and wait with anticipation for your follow-up album.