Friday, April 5, 2013

A New Wedding Song

Aside from John Mayer, I’m not sure a whole lot of musicians set out to purposely write a song to be used at your wedding.

I doubt The Edge planned his heaven’s echo guitar solo on “All I Want Is You” with someone’s nuptials in mind, and it’s unlikely Eric Clapton took pause from another day’s heroin daze and mumbled to himself, “Wonderful Tonight is going to be a bloody smash at weddings.” And, I find it impossible to believe that David Gray designed his entire catalogue around the possibility that couple after couple would harvest his chords for their first dance as a married match.

(Note: “Babylon” is not about your love. It’s a beautiful song about Gray’s emotional realizations after inhaling a load of beers. Listen to the lyrics, dammit.)

But, sometimes a song can embody more than it’s meant to embody. It can soundtrack a moment or symbolize a feeling. It can say words we can’t find or elicit emotions we didn’t know we had. Or, in the case of the upcoming onslaught of spring and summer weddings, it can communicate the meaning of a formal, romantic moment in front of family, friends and caterers.

A New Life” by Jim James is one of these songs, and it’s destined to become the next big wedding song—albeit unintentionally. Off his eclectic 2013 release Regions of Light and Sound of God, it’s a gorgeous and inventive arrangement of acoustic guitar, percussion and strings, strumming listeners through a sublime lead-in before transitioning into an emotional, marching cacophony. Without any vocals, it could be absorbed as a sonic embodiment of advancing emotions toward the realization of love. But, lucky for future brides and grooms, its locomotive progression is supported by the following lyrics:

Jim James's Regions of Light and Sound of God
Hey, open the door
I want a new life
Hey, and here’s what’s more
I want a new life, a new life
Babe, let’s get one thing clear
There’s much more star dust when you’re near
I think I’m really being sincere
I want a new life, a new life
With you 

Perfect. If you’re like me, you pick apart wedding song communication like a reverse rotation of The White Album. A wedding song's lyrics earn the most confirmation or confusion from alert guests. A couple borrows an artist’s words to describe their own thoughts and feelings while isolated on a dance floor. Choose a song with a direct, simplistic message of love, devotion and transition and you’re golden. Mistakenly select one about sexual liberation (Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”) or banging groupies (Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody”) and you're swaying amid horrified aunts, uncles and coworkers. Rest assured, James comes direct, providing an unambiguous message for couples entering into commitment.      

Can’t you see a perfect picture
You and me
But you know, it won’t come easy
And what’s more 
It’s worth looking for

After the lyrics, there are length and pace to consider. My unproven theories on this topic include the following: If the song’s too short, the couple isn't truly invested in their choice. If it’s too long, they’re totally inconsiderate of their guests. If it’s too fast, they’re acting too casual on what’s supposed to be the most important day of their lives. If it’s too slow and/or sexual, they’re overcompensating for something—or simply accentuating their constructed fairytale for those willing to buy in. And, if they go with Journey’s “Faithfully,” they’re simply ripping off my high school’s senior prom. (Note: This song was not new at the time of the prom, which made its choice as the evening's theme song incredibly pathetic.) 

“A New Life” provides a diversified opportunity for adventurous new couples. It runs a little long at 4:22, but its change of pace at the 1:26 mark allows for the always popular “you thought this song was slow, but we’ve fooled you” transition. The bride can kick off her shoes, the groom can work off his crippling anxiety, and guests will be spared of watching another couple’s uncomfortable PDA’s under Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful To Me.” As an added bonus, the wedding party or whole reception can be invited to the floor amid James's impassioned howl to share in the stomp that rolls the song to its end. What could ensue would be a scene worthy of a YouTube clip and a videographer’s fee—which would seem like a bargain for the first time in history.

And isn't this vibrant display of happiness and elation what love's supposed to look like? Isn't this the euphoria a wedding day is supposed to elicit? It isn't about the perfect dress or the most extravagant cake. It isn't about the most picturesque hall, all-you-can-drink Jameson or seafood wrapped in bacon. It's about two people excited and prepared to start a new life together, one surrounded by family, friends and music. Seems like such a decision should be celebrated in the type of collective fashion James's track is ideally suited to soundtrack.  

Like I noted at the start of this, I doubt most credible musicians purposely carve out songs to be used for your wedding. Jeff Tweedy didn’t record “One By One” for my sister’s event, and Bob Dylan didn’t write “If Not For You” for mine. I’m fairly certain Jim James didn’t write “A New Life” to be used by anonymous couples inside the Hotel Lafayette’s ballroom. But here it is, there for the taking on your wedding day.  

Babe, open the door
And start you new life,
Oh, your new life
Babe, on to the shore
And start your new life
Your new life, with me.

A new life for you. A new wedding song for everyone. Your move, John Mayer.

(Author’s note: This entry was finished while listening to “While You Were Sleeping” by Elvis Perkins—but I did listen to “A New Life” roughly 17 times while writing the bulk of this post.)    


Joe Sweeney said...

Hinky, sir. Just hinky. That song stood out to me from the get, and I made it the first track on a mix for my wife. Like the rest of the album, it has a whiff of the spiritual, almost like James had an epiphany and he's telling his love he wants her to trip out with him. But it's a mighty fine wedding song as well.

"Love" by John Lennon was ours. The purest, simplest love song you could imagine, and not much to dance to (a plus when you're talking about me).

Cristine Douglas said...

I personally perfer something really romantic... And of many romantic wedding songs, I'd love the "The gift" by Jim Brickman. But I admit your idea is just as great. Thanks for sharing your thoughts ;-)

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