#3 I Went Online (“Broken Heart” track by track)

I’m currently showcasing each track from my newest album, Broken Heart, in a “behind the song” blog series. I hope some listeners find it interesting or helpful. “I Went Online” is the third track. For convenience, the lyrics and YouTube & Spotify streams are at the bottom of this post.

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I’m not sure how this one will go down with people because I’ve learned over time that many people really hate repetition, whether it’s the same word or phrase repeated too much (which is surprising considering most music that makes the charts) or, in this case, the same sound. I remember being criticized by a creative writing teacher in school when I wrote a poem that had several lines in a row ending with the same rhyming sound, and lots of songwriters I’ve learned from have given advice that each pair of rhymes should be completely different, ideally never repeating the same vowel sound more  than twice for an entire song.

Well, I threw all of that out the window with this song because almost every single line ends with the long “i” sound. I personally find it catchy, but we’ll see. As ever, I’d rather please myself with my writing than others… although it would be cool to do both someday!

So yeah, this is a simple song on a silly little theme that I wrote quickly and didn’t like at first, especially when I was strumming it. But after I tried it finger picked, it kind of grew on me. Yes, it is short, simple, and repetitive in its vowel sounds, but I actually think it does an excellent job of expressing the poignant yearning I was going for, and it’s probably one of my favorites on the album. Short and simple doesn’t mean anything as to whether it’s an effective song or not!

The writing process for this was interesting because I had the title and theme in mind, but wasn’t quite sure how to write it, so I decided to just start with a big list of things you might search online! By the way, most of it is a true story, aside from the “learning to sew” one – I can’t really sew for shit, but I knew that some other people learn to sew from online patterns and it seemed like a good rhyme to start with. It is true, though, that I have spent time googling things like how to overcome fears and how to get over a crush… and sometimes it even works. And I would feel silly about this, but judging by instant results, I’m far from the only one doing this. Ah, the 21st century.

I hadn’t really decided prior to making this list how I was going to structure the song, but I ended up coming up with so many examples of search terms I really liked, that I felt like it had to basically be the entire song, not just the verses or just the choruses.

I thought it made sense to make the chorus about the object of affection and the verses about unrelated things; that felt powerful to me. Between the lyrical distinction and the finger picked verses vs. the strummed chorus, I love the way it came out with very sweet and innocent verses with emotionally stronger choruses. (By the way, I strummed the choruses of this and “What I Need” with my nails – my first time doing that, and it was hard!) And I distinguished the two verses because the first one was two concrete “how-to” queries, and the second one was two abstract or emotional ones (“how to get over my fears” and “how to be better”), which I felt helped the intensity grow later in the song.

I had originally written both choruses with all three parts (“how to talk to you,” “how to impress you,” and “how to get over you”), but I ended up realizing it was a bit long, so I cut out the last one and held it back till the end, which I thought was very effective. It’s like, I’ve been trying all this time to do all these things, and none of it has worked, so my last ditch effort (which also fails in the end) is to google how to get over you. Honestly I felt pretty proud of the simple flow of these chorus lyrics, I think that’s what makes them so effective. And I like how there is a progression from one year to two years to five years, and hopefully my intent shows to make each one progressively more intense.

As it turns out, Google is very good for practical problems and even self-improvement, but it can do absolutely nothing for crushes.

LYRICS

I went online to try to find
A pattern to learn to sew
And it took time to make straight lines
But now I’m taking care of all my clothes

I went online to try to find
A car that wouldn’t break down every day
And it took time to make one mine
But now I can’t remember any other way

And I went online to try to find out how to talk to you
But it’s a whole year later and I’m no less tongue-tied
And I went online to try to find out how to impress you
But it’s two years later and I’m no better liked

I went online to try to find
How I can be better than I am
And it took time but I’ve been surprised
To see just how much I can

I went online to try to find out
How to get over my fears
And it took time but now I’m feeling alive
Because I’m braver than I’ve been in years

And I went online to try to find out how to get over you
But it’s five years later and I’m no less preoccupied

#2 Electricity (“Broken Heart” track by track)

I’m currently showcasing each track from my newest album, Broken Heart, in a “behind the song” blog series. I hope some listeners find it interesting or helpful. “Electricity” is the second track. For convenience, the lyrics and YouTube & Spotify streams are at the bottom of this post.

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Although not quite as punchy as “Broken Heart” for me, I found this one similarly very good at expressing the way I feel, particularly with the chorus, which is where my inspiration started. Actually, I think when it really started was when I was collecting words that might make good song titles for some reason (I do all kinds of wacky things in the hopes of writing a great song), and one of many words I had written down was “electricity.”

I thought about this romcom cliché where two people are soulmates and there’s this literal “spark” when their hands touch for the first time. Although I definitely don’t believe in soulmates in a literal or intellectual sense (nor have I been lucky enough to actually have a relationship that felt that way), I have definitely had crushes where I was tempted to believe that this was the perfect person for me, that our conversations and time together was just qualitatively better than either of us with anyone else, and that our personalities were perfect complements of each other… and yet, they didn’t agree. That’s a profoundly sad and disorienting experience that I’m sure many people have experienced, but again, it’s not a popular theme for songwriting. I suppose I could have written a clichéd happy love song called “Electricity” just like this one, but without the unrequited part, but that wouldn’t have been authentic for me, and to be honest, I find this angle more interesting anyway.

For me, the chorus came first and just hit the nail on the head, it just captured my emotions perfectly and hit hard with me. The verses and bridge didn’t come as easy, so I didn’t find them as punchy. My feeling is that they are very well-written and say what I want to say, but they’re just missing that oomph that makes them really strong – maybe because there isn’t much metaphor or original turns of phrase, so it doesn’t inspire the mind very much. I feel like as I gain experience, it gets easier and easier to write decent lyrics, but it never really gets any easier to write great ones – that takes time, effort, rewriting, trial and error, and a bit of luck. And of course it’s more likely to (but doesn’t always) arrive in a fit of inspiration than through sheer grit.

One thing I’ll say is I was proud of the way I wrote the first verse ambiguous. As a standalone song, the first verse sounds like the beginning of a love song, and the true theme is not revealed until you’re hit with the “it ends here if you don’t feel the same.”

One of my quirks that found its way into this lyric is my scientific mindfulness, for lack of a better term. Not that I’m a great scientist – I wouldn’t be surprised if the wording I used for “all it is, is waves in my brain” is inaccurate, but hey, it’s art, it doesn’t have to be accurate! But, for me, I’ve always found explanatory science comforting in dealing with both physical and emotional suffering – breaking things down into what they really are, and not just my perception, which only exists in my brain. I zoom out of my own fixations to see myself in the bigger picture of human life, or even life in general (“random little specks in space”). I guess it’s like the scientific answer to spiritual mindfulness (which I’ve never been able to get into).

“Electricity” is also a kind of word that ties this all together, because it can be that metaphorical “spark” between two people, but our brainwaves are also a type of electricity.

LYRICS

We fit so well together, like peas in a pod
I’m here for you, and you’re everything that I’m not
Oh, our adventures of every kind
You’re the perfect partner to my crimes

It feels like electricity, it feels like love
It’s like you’re every possibility that I’ve been dreaming of
But all it is, is waves in my brain
And it ends here if you don’t feel the same

Maybe it’s a mistake, but what can I do?
I’ve got all this love and I only want to share it with you
If our bodies connected I think the world would implode
With every pleasure magnified a thousandfold

Because it feels like electricity, it feels like love
It’s like you’re every possibility that I’ve been dreaming of
But all it is, is waves in my brain
And it ends here if you don’t feel the same

And we’re just random little specks in space
And there’s no such thing as soulmates
And “meant to be” is only in our minds
But thinking about you makes me feel so good
And though nothing ever works out like it should
A part of me wonders, what if I’ve been right the entire time?

#1 Broken Heart (“Broken Heart” track by track)

Back by popular demand, I’ll be showcasing each track from my newest album, Broken Heart, in a “behind the song” blog series. I hope some listeners find it interesting or helpful. “Broken Heart” is the first and title track. For convenience, the lyrics and YouTube & Spotify streams are at the bottom of this post.

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This was definitely the one that I was proud of right off the bat. It’s simple in a lot of ways because it doesn’t involve too many different lyrics or chords, but I felt like I did more than usual to make it interesting and varied in structure, if that makes sense. With a full production though, it could probably be a great teen pop song.

I actually wrote this during a week when I had – no lie – listened to the pop charts for inspiration. I actually felt like I was channeling some modern teen pop artist. I envisioned it as one of those all-lowercase titles — which I ultimately wasn’t cool enough to pull off — and my inspiration started with the first line, “A broken heart is not that deep, I’ve been living with one for years.”

Out of the hundreds of songs I’ve written in the past few years, there are only a handful that I got so excited about that I not only doubled down and finished them in a short time, but also that I felt like they were completely finished, a completely perfect representation of what I’d intended, when I was done. This was one of them. I basically wrote the lyrics and the melody together in perfect synchrony (a rarity for me as I often write at least one verse of lyrics before writing the melody) a little bit at a time as the inspiration came to me. I finished the first verse, and then I wrote a second verse to match it. I wrote the pre-chorus and chorus kind of parts that repeat with slight adjustments to create an interesting structure. Every line I wrote, I felt like the lyric and melody together were so emotionally intense I could feel it in my gut. It was such a spot-on representation of what a broken heart feels like to me. I don’t know if I will make anyone else feel that same pang, but if I can only make myself feel it, that still means something to me!

The “but I’m lying, I really am, but I’m lying, I’m really not” part kind of pokes fun at the idea that you can’t really be too deeply hurt over “just a crush.” And it’s kind of playing with the question of what it means to be okay, hence the “I eat, I sleep, and I dream.” If you’re okay enough to eat and sleep, then aren’t you fine? Especially with a view to the old cliché of “I’m so in love that I can’t eat and I can’t sleep.” But of course you can still be deeply disturbed on the inside without being so non-functional that you can’t eat or sleep.

On the whole I think it is what it is, it’s an overdramatic yet self-aware unrequited love song. It’s not pretending to be anything more or less.

I added vocal doubling to this song for the first time, and I think it works quite well along with the harmonies that, for me, seem to give it a dreamy feeling. The doubling made me feel like Tegan and Sara! I’ll never have a twin, but at least I can clone my own voice and sound like I do!

LYRICS

A broken heart is not that deep
I’ve been living with one for years
But still when you rub at that scar
I flinch so hard this speech seems insincere

And I’ll admit I’m disappointed
That, I could never deny
Ooh, my heart is breaking
But hearts are broken all the time

I know it seems like I’m not okay
When I’ve got no trouble telling you I am
But I’m lying, I’m really not
But I’m lying, I really am
Because you’re with her, living your best life
And I’m all right
Because I eat, I sleep, and I dream
I get by just fine

A broken heart is not that deep
I’ve been living with one for most of my life
But still, when you walk by with her
It cuts like a goddamn knife

And if I ever said that I loved you
That wasn’t something I ever meant to say
Ooh, who can say if it was true?
You never listened anyway