This Companion Stories Series features essays which look at my album The Work and each of its songs in detail, going behind the scenes to de-mystify what artists too often try to keep mysterious.
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This song is pretty lyrically straightforward. It’s about a man I dated who was abandoned by his father as a teenager. As I grew to love this man, and as he revealed to me details of the act, I became increasingly angry about it. These things leave massive imprints that generations cannot erase. Such careless acts have such magnified consequences. It clearly affected our relationship – he was self-aware enough to articulate the ways this might happen – and for it to happen to someone so kind, authentic and driven felt cosmically unfair.
But then I was put in an unenviable position. I was moving away, starting another kind of life. I realized I had to, in essence, abandon this man, surely ripping open an old wound I had wanted to help heal, participating in the very act that had hurt him the most. And in this song, I blame his father for that. I resented being pulled into a cycle by someone who didn’t even know me and cared nothing about me. I felt like my actions were hurtful, yes, but rendered almost cruel by him. This is probably the only song on the album where pure emotion overcame, in a way, measured reason.
It was a small leap for me in this song to go from quiet concern for my ex-boyfriend in the verses to heightened outrage at his father in the bridge. The whole thing is part of the same vulnerably emotional package – life, I guess. It was the most difficult song on the album to write, but it is also one of my favorites because that emotion is so honest. I can often get caught up in esoteric ideas and floods of words, but sometimes those cloud the hard emotional truth, the kind that spills out when you’re not really thinking, when it all becomes too much and words don’t really cut it anymore.
But still, there must be reason. Trauma filters down through generations, but it doesn’t do so in nice, neat funnels. We are pulled into the orbits of so many traumas, knowingly and unknowingly, and they are stubborn, manipulative, lingering beasts. We are mired in them by our histories, our families, our nations, our human limitations. And we perpetuate what we don’t understand, which is the trauma of so many others.
We should all take this to heart in this historical moment, when the incalculable wounds of slavery and racism - traumas so often considered to affect only black people – are showing themselves so bluntly. Many white people now are finally beginning to feel a fraction of the force of the orbit we are staunchly, invariably tangled in. It’s becoming clear that we cannot claim exemption from the problem or the solution. Maybe one day we’ll even be able to admit the traumas created and sustained by us and do something about them. But we MUST recognize them.
“[White people] are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know.”- James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
Somehow we’ve only got one more installment to go! Check in next Friday when I will break down the final song on my album, I’m Here. Download all the songs in the series by searching for Carly Z in the iTunes Store.
Words are the backbone of my music. They often reference powerful ideas that strike me in my readings or develop from my life experiences. The creative expression of these ideas sometimes begs for musical form, and other times it comes out on the page. Here is a selection of my lyrics, poems, essays and other writings.