#4 He Doesn’t Know (“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. “He Doesn’t Know” is the fourth track. For convenience, the lyrics and YouTube & Spotify streams are at the bottom of this post.

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This one is pretty simple and self-explanatory, and it didn’t involve as much playful experimentation as most of the other songs, either lyrically or musically. I’m not sure if that will make it more or less appealing to people, but we’ll see.

It’s basically looking at the same unrequited love situation from a slightly different angle, and maybe a bit more plainly and straightforwardly than the previous songs. The verses detail the reasons that the narrator fell in love (charisma, perceived compatibility) along with their doubts, and then the choruses lament the lack of reciprocation.

It’s not one of my favorite songs because like I said it lacks the creative oomph, but on the other hand I also think there’s something to be said for simplicity and straightforwardness. Sometimes describing your experience in very plain terms, without even directly mentioning the emotions, can be the most emotionally effective. Short, sweet, simple, and straightforward, but not necessarily for the worse!

LYRICS

He’s got a special air about him
He just walks in the door and commands the room
I can’t imagine life without him
But that’s exactly what the world expects me to do

He doesn’t know, he doesn’t care
He doesn’t need me
And it’s all wrong, and it’s unfair
Why won’t he see me?

No one else can live up to our conversations
No other pair of people get along so well
But then it all must have been my imagination
Because he rode off into the sunset with someone else

#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?