I have never had to tell a loved one that someone close to them has died.
knocks on wood
I mean, I am relatively green to the whole death of a loved one thing.
knocks on wood seven hundred times
Unlike Nathan, when I cry listening to music, it usually comes from a much less-sentimental place. Where he ponders death, I marvel at that line that sends shivers up my spine. Where he wonders, "all of these people, dying, dead and buried, who will sing their song?" I wonder how someone could flip that soul sample so perfectly. Usually, it's that kind of thing that brings out the tears. Sometimes, however, a song touches on something important to me, and I cry for reasons that fall more in line with Nathan's tears than my Black Milk tears. For me, Eryn Allen Kane's "Her Pain" is both.
I'll start with the powerful, yet ultimately much less important reason for my tears, the way "Her Pain" sounds, because that's what first made me cry. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought this came from some old-time jazz songstress. Rather than belting Beyonce-esque notes (although there is some amazing vocal range on display here), Eryn takes a much more subdued, natural and captivating approach. While she sounds so light and delicate, the power in her voice is enough to pierce my soul like a Valyrian steel blade. It is so easy to listen to, but lights a fire in the part of your soul explicitly reserved for music that moves you. The "blessing me part"? The subtle yet remarkable vocal display at the 3:30 mark? The last two minutes? Hell, the whole damn song. When I listen to this it gets all of my attention. It can't be background noise because whenever it's on, it becomes more important than anything else I am or could be doing. It's gripping and remarkable. So remarkable in fact, that it took me a while to actually hear Kane's story.
And then I cried for a whole different reason.
I love women. Not just in that, birds and the bees, The Temptations playing in your head when you see her way, but a deeper, more appreciative way. Credit my mother and father for raising me right and a large supporting cast of girlfriends (friends who happen to be girls) for my appreciation and respect. From childbirth to putting up with guys at a bar (and yet, I've probably been that guy once or twice), being a woman has more than its fair share of challenges. Men also have their share of plights and gender hoops to jump through - for example, being worried about talking about songs that make us cry - but it'd be absurd to claim being a man wasn't an advantage. Still, no matter how many times I read The Second Sex or how many interviews I do with Rapsody I can never really know what it's like to be a woman. I can sympathize but I can't empathize.
And yet, when I really listen to Eryn, I swear I can feel her "Her Pain."
It's that touch of nonchalance which makes the first half of the song really kick. Her storytelling is vivid and rich; I feel like I can really picture everything because she describes it so eloquently. That Oprah line? Just so cool. The first half of the song puts a big smile on face; I just love the imagery...but then...this...
So why am I here with blood drippin’ from my nose fear running down my face
My lovers hands grabbing my throat?
Unprovoked he choked all love and trust out of me
Barren of any emotion on the floor he left me.
19-years-old all I saw was 19 years flash before me.
That rush that I got from the song my first 250 listens was replaced with a more nervous, white knuckled energy. This song that was was so warm and fuzzy sounding was based around a story that was so stark and callous. That feeling went from my soul to the pit of my stomach. This song, the one that had me floating on air, smiling from ear to ear, crying because I got to bear witness to a beautiful musical landscape, was about domestic violence.
Unfortunately, I'm sure I have encountered a woman who was a victim of domestic violence, statistically it's impossible that I haven't, but none of them have made it explicitly clear to me. So why am I so moved by something I have never experienced first hand?
Honestly, I don't know. But when I hear the passion in Eryn's voice, the heartbreak, fear, and sorrow, it hits me and hits me hard. I understand and make sense of the world through music; for me, it's the most powerful interpretive tool in my arsenal. When I hear Eryn's story, for just a moment, I am right there with her. She helps me genuinely connect to an issue I really can't ever know or experience in the same manner and for that I am grateful. The heartbreak I feel each time I listen to this song is but a fraction of the heartbreak domestic violence victims experience, but it still makes me feel closer to the issue and, on occasion, it moves me to tears.
Honestly, it felt weird picking someone as relatively unknown as Eryn Allen Kane for this topic. Especially when compared to the popularity of a few of my other potential picks, one of them being "Devil In A New Dress." But ultimately, even though it's one of my favorite Kanye songs, it doesn't move me in the same profound way as "Her Pain." That goes to show the true force of incredible tunes. When it comes to powerful music, music that makes us cry, it doesn't matter whether it was recorded in a top-of-the line studio in Hawaii or recorded on Garage Band over a YouTube instrumental. When the feeling is there, when there is passion and soul, and in this case, blood shed for the song, it can strike you in the most profound way possible.
[Editor's Note: This is the second of a three-part series on music that makes us cry. For part one, click here.]