#6 We Can’t Let Them Win (“Better” track by track)

I did “behind the song” blog series for both of my last two albums, and some people seem to like them, so I thought I would do it again! “We Can’t Let Them Win” is the sixth track from my latest release, Better. For convenience, the lyrics and YouTube & Spotify streams are at the bottom of this post.

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What’s disappointing about this song (but it happens) is that it started out as a line I was really excited about, but the finished product ended up possibly being my least favorite on this release. I suppose I don’t despise it — I can play it with confidence, but it’s the last one I would think of adding to my set list out of all of them.

I suppose it’s mostly the last part of the song that I don’t like, so sometimes I just don’t play it and I like the song better that way, but even the verses and the chorus just feel somehow uninspired compared with some of my other songs.

The line I started with was the title, “we can’t let them win,” and I had the melody for it too. I had grandiose ideas for what the song could about, so that might be where I went wrong. That never works out too well.

It was also the fact that this was a song I consciously chose to finish, and writing it was a bit of a slog. The songs that I make myself finish, I’m not sure if other people can tell, but I feel like I can always hear the lack of inspiration in the final product. I definitely have to keep doing that if I want to be a professional songwriter (as they say, action often precedes inspiration). But I’m hoping that over time, I can understand more of what I’m doing differently when I’m “inspired” versus uninspired, and that will lead me to some tricks that can make the uninspired sound “inspired.”

In terms of writing, the first thing I did was come up with an outline, which I didn’t find too hard. Verse 1 would simply be about stubbornly negative people – we need to keep ourselves positive and not let them win in that sense. Then, verse 2 would intensify that by making it about something more serious and more to the point – not letting those people win who want to make the world a worse place and take away hard-won rights. I sat and played around with chords and melodies until I came up with something I liked, and actually, I will say I’m still pretty satisfied with what I came up with there.

I think most of my criticism of this song involves the lyrics. There are just a lot of lines I found a bit cheesy. If I’d had more time, I probably would have changed a lot of them. But because of deadlines I set for myself, I had less than a week from the time I finished writing to the time I recorded in studio. Not much time for finalizing and rehearsing the songs, let alone making major edits.

Phrases like “rainy day” or the lines I added to the chorus (“Give a smile while you can and reach out a helping hand”) just felt like clichés, too easy and obvious, and I know I could have come up with something more interesting if I’d taken the time. The last line of the second verse (“If they had their way we’d all be lonely”) doesn’t even make that much sense if you really think about it… what does having rights have to do with loneliness? But that was a situation  where I couldn’t come up with a line I was satisfied with, so after jotting down a handful of random ideas, I just wrote down the one I disliked the least. Also, technically, “lonely” doesn’t even near-rhyme with “need” because the emphasis is on the wrong syllable, but I’ve never been a stickler for rhymes. I notice their imperfections but accept them, just like I accept the imperfections in my life and myself.

Anyway, for me the bridge is even worse than cheesy lyrics because I just didn’t like how it turned out at all. Basically, I had no intention for the song to include a rant about corporations, and I felt like it weakened the song. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing to say, I just felt like it wasn’t compelling enough and didn’t belong, which is why I usually don’t play that part.

Oh well. At the end of the day, I came up with something I found satisfactory, even if not great. I know that I’m going to come up with lots more ideas that excite me and finish lots more songs before I’m through, so I won’t grieve for any particular idea that disappoints me in its final form.

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LYRICS
There are people in this world
Who make every day a rainy day
They never smile at anyone
They only open their mouths to complain
They’ll take the joy that we allow them to take

We can’t let them win
Give a smile while you can
And reach out a helping hand
We can’t let them win

There are people in this world
Who want to take away the rights we’ve achieved
And they can’t accept us having more
Because they’ve already got all they need
If they had their way we’d all be lonely

But to tell the truth
It’s not right versus wrong or weak versus strong
Or progressives against conservatives
It’s big corporations controlling our minds
Controlling our data and controlling our lives
Divide and conquer against everybody else
So I say
We can’t let them win

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