tremble clef

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bic Runga, "If I Had You" (2005)

I can be easily gotten, and, as I've said before and elsewhere, there's probably no surer-fire way to get me than to write a song in the conditional. If. If A is true, then we can talk about B. And C, and D. But you and I know, in our heart of hearts, that A really isn't true. Everything that follows is simply fantasy. A wish.

"If I had you." A deep breath, and the first word you hear, a beat before anything else happens in the song, is exactly that conditional. "What in the world could be better?/A crazy love that waits for you/Why must it wait forever?"

A second verse, a second "if." It's more dramatic this time, the enunication of the word seeming to sap all of Bic's energies. She bites down on the sole syllable, then has to take a breath that's almost a gasp. "IF -- I had you/Key to a hidden treasure/A ruby heart that hides from view/Don't hide for long."

If the third verse seems to simply repeat the first -- and it does have the same lyric -- it's nevertheless being read differently. This time it's harder to distinguish between "If' and "I"; the words run together, inching us further along in the fantasy, as if we're finally past the stumbling block that is "If." But any victory is but temporary: we only return to being stuck on that qualifier. "IF -- I had you/To be ever so close together/One safe love to shelter you/In tender loving arms."

"Oh, oh, oh, darling/In the night/I ask the good lord in heaven/Please show me what love can do/I couldn't care for more." On the chorus, Bic seems almost restrained, shackled. The "Oh, oh, oh" would seem to demand a certain amount of soulful anguish, and some might say that Bic doesn't quite burst forth here. But the lesson of the preceding verses, perhaps, is that she can't burst forth. There's so little -- one small word -- and yet so much -- one small word -- in the way. You can barely hear the "love" in the chorus, so softly is the word whispered. Please show me (what love) can do.

I've been listening to the album Birds, which is full of beautiful wooziness -- you hear it here in the vaguely off-kilter "ba-la-ba-la-ba" backing vocals -- since the middle of December, and I love it very much. Each time I listen to this particular song, I almost expect to hear yet another way of saying "If," and, even more foolishly, I almost expect to hear the word, love, more clearly next time. But of course, if one exists, the other one won't. If I had you, then there would be love. Foolish indeed.


  • If Mariah Carey or an American Idol contestant were to get their hands on this, it would be an utter mess.

    Props to Bic all around for her restraint and great phrasing. It's a shame that, on the album, she immediately begins to ham it up on the awful awful "Captured."

    BTW, doesn't "If I Had You" remind you somehow, and especially with the guitar at 0:55, of Fairport Convention's "Autopsy"?

    By Anonymous esque, at 6:28 PM  

  • I like "Captured," actually -- it's very black magic-y sounding, if that makes any sense. Indeed, except for "No Crying No More," which I don't understand (she's...trying to do a hillbilly number?), I really like every track, and have a special place in my heart for the wah-wah guitars on "That's Alright."

    But yes, I hear a bit of "Autopsy" in then guitars, and you can sing the "Copme lend your time to me..." bit in place of Bic's chorus. But then again the brilliance of "Autopsy" is the key change that allows one to sing that bit in any song, heh.

    By Blogger Brittle, at 12:42 AM  

  • I saw her live twice in 2005 and she was really great - very ..crystalline! I don't know how many of the songs she did were new, but maybe I will recognize them. She is quite beautiful in person - and tiny tiny.

    By Blogger xolondon, at 9:12 PM  

  • She is really beautiful. And takes great photos too -- the whole slightly morbid look for the cover of Birds is great, although her blessed cheekbones are more apparent on the cover for Beautiful Collison.

    By Blogger Brittle, at 1:19 PM  

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