Standing on the Verge

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:


(For the embedded video challenged, follow this link)

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.

Presented by

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.

Does This Child Need Marijuana?

Dravet Syndrome is a severe form of epilepsy that affects children. Could marijuana oils alleviate their seizures?

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Does This Child Need Marijuana?

Inside a family's fight to use marijuana oils to treat epilepsy

Video

A Miniature 1950s Utopia

A reclusive artist built this idealized suburb to grapple with his painful childhood memories.

Video

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her school. Then the Internet heard her story.

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

More in Entertainment

From This Author

Just In