Standing on the Verge

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by Oliver Wang

Following up on the Earworms post from yesterday, if there are some songs that are relatively easy to break down to a few key components, there are others that, in my opinion, shouldn't work yet absolutely do. My friend Hua describes songs like this using the idiom "catching lightning in a bottle" and the first tune he applied it to was this one:


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What I've always loved about this song is how damn delicate a house of cards it seems to be: individually, its component parts are not that extraordinary and in concert with one another, there's something about the tune that always seems on the verge of just collapsing into a mess but it never does.

I love these kinds of musical moments because they really do seem like a collection of elements that happened to all work together in a way that feels like a stroke of luck rather than concerted calculation. I could be wrong: maybe Popcorn Wylie and his writing partner Tony Hester had been mapping this tune out for months but I prefer, in my own mind garden, to imagine it was some kind of (full circle alert!) strange magic.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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