March 9, 2010
During the Academy Awards show last Sunday, a montage of movie clips honoring the late John Hughes featured a great quote from The Breakfast Club: “When you grow up, your heart dies.” In one line, teenage angst collided beautifully with a universal fear.
In comparison, no lyric in Lady Antebellum’s “American Honey” was written with even half the poignancy or acute understanding of the human spirit; I still haven’t read a reasonable explanation of the song’s odd metaphor. And yet, to me, there’s something about the song that resonates with the same raw, trapped-by-the-certainty-of-time desperation as Allison Reynolds’ tearful proclamation, albeit built on nostalgia rather than fear. Like the movie clip, the song makes me feel.
“American Honey” begs the same question I’ve asked myself since I started writing for Country Universe: why am I able to form such strong emotional connections to songs that are lyrically weak? I’m still exploring the answer, but I do know this: while to many people, country music is about naked truth, to me, it’s always been more so about naked emotion. My favorite country songs and artists have a specific, potent way of capturing sentiment and presenting it deeply, tangibly and honestly – and it isn’t always through a story. “American Honey” would be a far better song if its character were fleshed out, but I’m just as gripped by the coupling of its sweet, wistful melody with Hillary Scott’s convincing performance.
The song has an extra layer of believability for me because Scott and I are the same age – in that awkward, early 20s era of life where you’re just old enough to feel the gravity of adulthood, but young enough to feel like you can reach back and touch your childhood. In the nearly two years since I graduated from college, time has flown by faster than I’ve ever known it to, so much so that thinking about it sometimes takes my breath away. Scott’s delivery on “I just want to go back in time” mirrors that exact feeling.
I firmly believe that if a piece of music moves you, it has value. What songs with subpar lyrics have struck an emotional chord with you, and why?