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. More

Born in 1975, the product of two beautiful parents. Raised in West Baltimore -- not quite The Wire, but sometimes ill all the same. Studied at the Mecca for some years in the mid-'90s. Emerged with a purpose, if not a degree. Slowly migrated up the East Coast with a baby and my beloved, until I reached the shores of Harlem. Wrote some stuff along the way.

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