tremble clef

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mandy Moore, "Gardenia" (2007)

"I'm the one who likes gardenia/I'm the one who likes to make love on the floor/I don't want to hang up the phone yet/It's been good, getting to know me more."

I don't have a favorite flower. I often think that I should pick one. Irises, perhaps, or calla lilies. I want to make myself over, into a neat and digestible package, one easily comprehended. "Brittle-Lemon enjoys long walks on the beach, and he loves orchids, as long as they are either white or purple. He finds the pink variety too common." If we build it, he will come; the least I can do is make it easier for him upon arrival. He will be quickly presented with my quirks, and he can confidentally tell the chocolatier my wants, the florist my desires. I must simplify myself.

Meanwhile, I've spent seven weeks listening to Mandy Moore's Wild Hope. Smitten with The Weepies, I expected to love the songs Mandy co-wrote with them -- and, indeed, "Extraordinary" and "Looking Forward To Looking Back" are album highlights. But it's the wrenching closing ballad, co-penned with Chantal Kreviazuk, that I have kept coming back to (even despite my queasy resistance to thinking about Mandy's favorite sexual position). "Gardenia" is largely uninterested in telling a straightforward story, but we can piece some of it together. It's clear, for starters, that Mandy, with her "wounded heart," is coming to us in the aftermath of a breakup. She now has to remind herself of the things that she liked, and has a chance to still like. The things that (used to) make up who she is or was (more/Moore). These have gotten buried, sacrificed during her relationship. "I've been seeing all my old friends in the city/Walking alone in Central Park/Doing all the things that I've neglected/Traded 'em all in to be in your arms." So: "I'm the one who likes gardenia." Remember?

Is this declaration, simultaneously confident and tentative, enough to re-form herself? To bring back the persons we used to be, do we simply have to summon ourselves back? The song is finally unsure, although it holds out hope. "Well, I hear my own voice, sounds so silly/Keep on telling my story all around/ Everything I lost seems so different/Well, this is how everybody gets found." Perhaps it is only by becoming estranged from ourselves that we can re-find ourselves, but the song is going to have to get back to us on that. And so I take it as a warning.


  • Oooh, Brittle. I love this song, too. The other night some friends (lesbians!) and I put on wigs and did interpretive dance to this song on repeat. It was quite a sight, lemme tell ya, but that's how we roll. :-) We thought for sure that Lori McKenna had co-written this song, but love that it was Chantal.

    By Blogger lucas mirĂ©, at 12:13 AM  

  • I love this post, and I think it has an interesting consequence for how one takes this album as a whole. The warning you correctly see casts a big question mark on the album-as-Mandy's-self-discovery.

    For example, I always thought that "Extraordinary" was a sweet yet run-of-the-mill affirmative song, in part because in interviews Mandy's suggested that it could be a gay-pride anthem. Still, just because someone is *ready* to be extraordinary doesn't mean that they ever *will* be. "Gardenia" is a nice reminder of the struggles that both engender and threaten self-affirmation, and of the dangers of taking singles out of their album context.

    (I see that Lucas has just posted a comment, so I'll say that I think that "Gardenia" tackles some of the same themes as "Chalk.")

    By Anonymous esque, at 12:18 AM  

  • I really, really, really hope that the lesbians' dance did not take a turn into Georgia O'Keefe country when it came time to interpret the title line, if you know what I mean.

    By Blogger Brittle, at 12:19 AM  

  • Yes! There's something interestingly deceptive about the whole album: superfiically a lot of the songs seem Pollyannishly self-affirming, but on further thought many of them never actually give us the moment of self-affirmation. For a while I was writing an entry about "Looking Forward" before I switched to "Gardenia," and that former song has this structure as well, quite obviously. She's looking forward to looking back, but at the moment of the song, where exactly is she? She's not at the moment of looking back yet; she's just looking forward to it.

    Even more fundamentally, I really like how the album is supposed to be all about Mandy's depression in the wake of some breakup, but it's not cliched in the way it does so. "I'm fine, but I'm not okay," as "Looking Forward" says.

    I kinda want to hear the bonus track that she cowrote with Hem, and I hope it surfaces at some point.

    By Blogger Brittle, at 12:26 AM  

  • It's all a big kiss off to Zach Braff!

    By Blogger xolondon, at 4:25 AM  

  • If true, "Gardenia" would be one of the few good pieces of music Zach is responsible for, ba-da-BOOM!*

    *minor apologies to The Shins

    By Blogger Brittle, at 2:27 PM  

  • I do like the line "Well I hear my own voice it sounds so silly..." even though given the intonation we have to take it with salt (& tequila) ...

    By Anonymous arcite, at 10:45 AM  

  • Oui. Mandy adopts some folk mannnerisms for her vocie for this record; some are a bit precious, like the way she sings "silly," but perhaps the line suggests that she knows about the affectation.

    I seem to be quite forgiving, don't I?

    By Blogger Brittle, at 4:52 PM  

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