The Look of Love - C&M Valentine's Day Review Contest
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February 5th, 2012 (02:06 PM). Edited February 8th, 2012 by SelenaStar.
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Cannonball - Damien Rice
To (partially) quote one of my favourite movies of all time: Cannonball is not a love song, it is a song about love. Stylistically, Lyrically, Poetically, Thematically – all these aspects of a true contemporary masterpiece come together in a heady, emotional train wreck of a song that, when truly listened to, could have even the most disillusioned anti-romantic reaching for the man-size Kleenex.
In a climate of over-produced, straight to iTunes tracks churned out by soulless hit factories, a stripped-bare song featuring only a man and his guitar is a rarity. Fingers jabbed in the directions of James Morrison, Jack Johnson, John Mayer and artists from that school of music have a valid contradiction to the above statement, but I believe that Cannonball shows a depth of emotional maturity and depth typical of and unique to Rice. One need only turn to other understated numbers as The Blowers' Daughter (from the movie Closer) and 9 Crimes to find this is a common undertone to the musical stories weft by Rice. This is sadly a rarity in the modern music industry generally, and in the genre of love songs (although, as already established, Cannonball is in actual fact a song about love and not a love song) more specifically, with very shallow, sellable products being made from songs that discuss love – packaged, marketed and shipped off to whomsoever has the Benjamins to pay for them.
As with most music, the stories are there to be inferred and are not explicit, each is interpreted differently by each individual. To me, Cannonball tells the story of a man, caught between the need to move on from a broken relationship and his inability to remove himself from the everyday discourse that governs life as part of a couple. His capacity to see past the end of the relationship is impeded by the love that stands in his way, blocking his vision as he tries to see his life past the end of a major chapter of his life.
This is a story that we can all empathise with – some of us have been through it ourselves, some of us have put others through it, some of us have seen loved ones struggle with it, or we may have just seen it portrayed powerfully through another medium. This universality is one of the most important aspects of the song and how it portrays love – save for a few lexical changes, the narrator could be most anyone – not defined by gender, race, sexuality, social class, religion, defined only by their experience at the hands of love. It is incredibly easy, when listening to the lyrics of the song as crooned so powerfully through Rices' husky, at times desperate vocals, to put yourself in the narrator's position. I personally found myself revisiting numerous occasions when it felt as though Rice was speaking what was in my heart straight from source. This is also, I believe, the justification for my saying that this is not a love song – this is a song about love. For those of us who take love to be an objective truth, one of the few experiences that bind humanity together in shared universality, Cannonball seems to express the same ideal.
To say that love is an objective, however, is not to say that it is simple. Love is potentially the most complex and confusing emotional state that can be experienced, consistent through the whole of mankind. Love is messy, it makes us do things we wouldn't normally do, it inspires a whole array of secondary emotions and states of mind that can conflict with each other, sometimes with themselves and with our very beings, our very identities. Never has this been portrayed to me so clearly through a song as though Cannonball – 'stones taught me to fly, love taught me to lie, life taught me to die, so it's not hard to fall when you float like a cannonball.' - the binary oppositions presented illustrate with painful clarity the sheer mess that love can create, and it is this mess that maintains the narrative of the broken heart trying desperately to move past a corrosive situation.
Lexically, the simplicity of the poetry acts as an interesting paradox to the confused and unclear imagery painted within the song. Each word used seems and feels as though it had been selected by Rice especially for this purpose, put together in a delicate order to portray such deep meaning resonant of Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah. The first person diction, directed towards a very specific yet unnamed second person, provides the intimate context of a relationship, as though through the song we the audience are listening in on a private conversation between the broken heart and the one he/she is trying to get past. Perpetuated by the presentation of binary oppositions as paradoxical within the simple phrasing, cannonball's lyrics beautifully tie together the illustrations of love as discussed above.
This review does not do the song justice. Not even close. The cacophony of emotions and thoughts that this song provokes are too monumental, too varied and vast to be able to sort them into any kind of logical ordered process to write into a review. Ultimately, as stated before, this is not a love song, it is a song about love. As such, the very themes present are the opposite of tangible, and this review only represents my best attempt at catching these themes, straightening them into some sort of readable fashion and putting them together through my own words to try and explain the importance of this song as part of the genre but also to me personally. If you haven't heard Cannonball, all that I can really say is that you need to. Preferably now. Then see if you agree or not.
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