#62: Ron Sexsmith – ‘Maybe This Christmas’ (2002)


Any song which is hopeful comes from a place of deep malaise. ‘Maybe This Christmas’ takes this season’s penchant for magic and miracles and attempts to use it to spirit up romance and reconcilation. 

“Maybe this Christmas will mean something more. Maybe this year, love will appear, deeper than ever before.”

It’s a nice wish, and not too unrealistic, either. As your annual ‘Love Actually’ viewing no doubt reminded you, love – actually – is all around. For Ron Sexsmith, it will rescue him from yet another meaningless holiday. He also acknowledges that, with all this emotion whirling around, maybe this is the perfect time to call someone you once loved; “someone we’ve lost, for reasons we can’t quite recall.” 

Losing touch is quite easy; Christmas is just the sharpest reminder of how easy.

‘Maybe This Christmas’ zeroes in on something often overlooked at Christmastime: just how much holiday happiness hinges on having someone you love to share it with. 

While many moan about the traffic, the heat/cold, the racist uncles, the last-minute shopping, the cynical commercials, most carols, the unexpected cameos by family issues decades past, vacuuming tinsel out of the carpet for months, toys without required batteries, and terrible television, all that stuff is made infinitely worse – like a Race Around The World you can’t remember sending an audition tape in for – when you are dragging a heavy heart through it all.

(This song also has the distinct honour of soundtracking the season one episode of The OC in which the now-traditional holiday Chrismukkah was introduced. This portmanteau holiday, created to merge Christianity and Judaism,  should really have picked up more steam by now.)

The emphasis on family, joy and love that comes clumsily gift-wrapped with Christmas can often compound lousy feelings, but it’s also the perfect time to start taking steps towards believing that things will soon be different. Even if you can’t yet feel it, you can see evidence of it. Look around. Seeing how easily love exists makes it seem well within reach.

Will love appear for you this Christmas? Well, probably not. But maybe…

#61: Alice In Chains – ‘Down In A Hole’ (1992)

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I have to confess off the bat that I don’t find ‘Down In A Hole’ to be a sad song or even a depressing, angry, or particularly harrowing song. It’s strikingly pretty, it is sweeping and plodding; dramatic, sure, but Jerry Cantrell’s harmonies are the main reason for this – in a previous life he was undoubtedly a Gregorian monk. It’s expertly constructed and played, and felt deeply within every inch. But it doesn’t sound that defeated, despite the desperate lyrics, and Layne Staley certainly doesn’t seem to be down in any kind of hole while singing it. He was a drug addict, sure (he was actually smacked out while recording the vocals to this song) but Alice In Chains had sold over a million records by the time they entered the studio to record this track, and were about to hit a career high, selling five million copies of ‘Dirt’, the album from which this comes.

Songwriter Jerry Cantrell has claimed the song is about his long-term love, and their inability to stay together in the face of the band’s success. “It’s hard for us to both understand…that this life is not conducive to much success with long-term relationships”, he wrote of the track’s inspiration in the liner notes to 1999 boxset ‘Music Box’. Staley’s addiction deepened in the years following Dirt’s success, and after his girlfriend, the stunning Demri Parrot, died of a heroin overdose in 1996, he seemed to completely give up on any further attempts at straightening up.

Layne Staley spent his final few years holed up in his Seattle condo, his millions of dollars allowing him to build a wall between him and the world, while he had drugs delivered to him around the clock. Friends tried and failed to get in touch with him, his escalating heroin use resulted in him losing most of his teeth, and in April 2002, after his accountants realised he hadn’t withdrawn any money in a fortnight, police kicked in his door and found his body on a couch, surrounded by drug paraphernalia. He weighed a shocking 39kgs.

His death was dated as April 5, the exact same day Kurt Cobain had died eight years earlier – a bleak bookend to the heroin-ravaged Seattle music scene that thrived in the early ’90s. So maybe this song isn’t a particularly sad one when taken at face value, but the story certainly is.

It’s easy to search for meaning in music after a tragedy, but it’s hard to deny that, despite riding high at the time, Layne Staley was down in a hole while recording this song, and he never managed to dig himself out.

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly

Nathan Jolly’s book ‘Sydney Is For Strangers is out now. Buy the paperback version on Amazon, or digitally on Kindle.

#60: Ben Folds Five – ‘Cigarette’ (1997)


There’s a story, almost certainly apocryphal, where Ernest Hemingway made a ten-dollar bar-room bet that he could write a complete novel in six words. The bet was taken, the money collected (no doubt in a bowler hat), and then he wrote on a napkin:

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

This has long been held as the prime example of word economy, and although nobody has matched it for brevity and emotional weight since, there have been numerous examples of this in the world of popular song, as we all call it. The Beatles’ ‘Eleanor Rigby’ manages to paint an entire lonely world in only a handful of lines, while – as discussed – Cat Stevens nailed the disconnect between generations in ‘Father and Son’ without a single stray syllable. Less poetically, NOFX really captured the urgency of having to pee in just three words in their classic ‘I Gotta Pee’ (although there is a fourth-word twist at the end).

‘Cigarette’ by Ben Folds Five slides into this lineage beautifully, a spare 98-second interlude which documents the selfless, worn-down life of Fred Jones, his struggle as anonymous as his name. He spends his days caring for a wife stricken with either drug addiction, terminal illness, or perhaps both, yet he isn’t even granted respite during the nights, as he is constantly on guard in case she accidentally sets the house ablaze with a dangling cigarette. It’s tragic: he is a silent hero, and it makes me deeply sad and tired to my bones just thinking about it.

The song sits on the back end of Ben Folds Five’s breakthrough album ‘Whatever and Ever Amen’, and is one of numerous heart-wrenching moments on this landmark record. Folds deals in both flippancy and dark character studies equally on this album – the track is followed by a jaunty tale about a guy who keeps throwing himself farewell parties but never quite leaves, a necessary emotional reset after the heavy air of ‘Cigarette’ (Sidebar: An ex-girlfriend and I used to have to watch an episode of ‘Futurama’ after watching the brutal prison drama ‘Oz’ late at night on SBS to achieve a similar reset).

On Folds’ debut solo album ‘Rockin’ The Suburbs’ – released in 2001 – Fred Jones’ lonely tale is fleshed out further on ‘Fred Jones Pt 2’ which details his final day at the newspaper he has worked at for 25 years – presumably having being laid off – where, “there was no party, there were no songs, ‘cos today’s just a day like the day that he started.” His sad desk accoutrements sit in a cardboard box; a younger man waits to escort him downstairs.

It’s a terrible story, and hopefully Folds will write a Part 3 that involves a beautiful new bride, a lotto win, and a life of happy luxury – but somehow I doubt it. Folds is – unfortunately – too good a storyteller for such easy endings. I’m sorry, Mr. Jones.

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly

#59: Paul Kelly – ‘When I First Met Your Ma’ (1992)

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‘When I First Met Your Ma’ is one of the finest love songs in Paul Kelly’s canon, but that doesn’t mean it’s a ray of sunshine.

Kelly recorded the song twice, once as a jangling full-band version on 1992’s ‘Hidden Things’ – a collection of B-sides, and rarities recorded between ’86 to ’91 – and then as a stripped-down acoustic version included on his first best of collection, 1997’s ‘Songs Of The South’. The latter is the version most people are familiar with, and the better of the two, with the focus rightfully on Kelly’s voice and lyrics, accompanied only by a slightly-muted acoustic guitar.

It begins as a blissful tale of falling in love, with all the messy details smoothed out, angry fathers turned into cartoons, spurned lovers into bit-players. It details Kelly’s early romance with first wife Hilary Brown, who he met at the Kingston Hotel in Richmond after his “foolish girlfriend brought her there.”

I’m sure the son (or daughter; he doesn’t make this explicitly clear, but I’ll be writing with male pronouns because I guess I am inherently sexist) wasn’t too thrilled at hearing the tale of how his parents had sex for the first time, but it’s hard to deny the rush of young love presented after he was booted by his future father-in-law – “I walked two miles in Melbourne rain, but I could have walked ten more.” That’s how it feels, isn’t it? The rain cannot get to you when you are walking on clouds.

Despite the rose-coloured romance at the heart of the tale, the crushing turn comes with the line, “Love like a bird flies away” – this tale is of a love which has long died, poisoned by all the things that cannot withstand bounding fathers, Melbourne rain, or long distances.

The following line is even more painful, and true: “you’ll find out the only way.” It necessarily negates any lesson in this story – he can warn his son of heartbreak, he can even wrap it in a beautiful metaphor, but in the end the only way he will truly find out about love’s sometimes temporary status is to experience its loss.

Paul can’t shield his son from this inevitability, but he can warn him it’s coming. Still, it won’t be of any real use. One day, he will feel the pain himself, and then he will know – unfortunately, it’s the only way.

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly

#58: Don Henley – ‘The Heart Of The Matter’ (1989)

It starts with a phone call. An “old, true friend” was enlisted to break the news, news he knew deep down anyway, but news which hadn’t yet been broadcast to him. So he hears about it on his chunky, late-’80s Zack Morris phone (probably), which nevertheless doesn’t undercut the fact that his stomach is eating itself, and breathing just became so much harder. Don Henley’s ex-lover has found another.

I’m always a sucker for songs where someone knows they are to blame for the dissolution of their relationship. Someone feeling wronged or cheated by another is too clean cut for any real murkiness; there is the white heat of anger to melt any sadness, thoughts of revenge to fill the empty spaces. “You did this to me” is an effective beta-blocker, but blame makes for a boring song. Being the architect of your own demise, and then seeing with crystal hindsight all the ways you did someone wrong is a much juicier tale. Sadly, it’s way more relatable, too; it’s much easier to forgive someone else than yourself.

The chorus is so stark, a portrait of a man slowly working his way through heartache. It’s all so elementary; a broken man rebuilding himself without a reliable guide. It’s small and simple, and never angry. “But I miss you sometimes” hits all the harder for not being obscured in metaphor. “The things I thought I knew, I’m learning again.” There’s a lot of trying, and learning, but also a complete surrender to things outside his control. He misses her, his will gets weak, his thoughts scatter – she doesn’t love him anymore. He can’t steer any of it. All he can do is try, and learn. It’s beautiful.

The second verse finds Henley doing what so many have done before upon finding themselves boxed out by a younger generation: he laments the way society is going. The ’80s with its crass packaging of music, homogenised production techniques, and the rise of MTV, must have seemed like the antithesis of the warm previous decade, which Henley spent in the leafy hills of Los Angeles when he wasn’t performing for adoring crowds. Even for an Eagle, a band constantly lambasted for their commercial ambitions, the ’80s must have seemed like a cold, confusing time. He equates his own work ethic with the discomfort he sees bubbling around him – aware that it all leads to muddled priorities. “How can love survive in such a graceless age?” he asks. “These times are so uncertain, there’s a yearning undefined, and people filled with rage.” Henley, like so many, realises too late that his own competitive drive and work ethic killed something much more vital, landing on some hard truths. “The work I put between us, you know it doesn’t keep me warm.”

‘The Heart Of The Matter’ was released in 1989 on Henley’s album ‘The End Of The Innocence’ (which also features ‘New York Minute’, another Henley heart-stopper). The song was revisited by Eagles in 1994 on their spectacular ‘Hell Freezes Over’ live album, which is by far the superior version, stripped of any lingering ‘Boys Of Summer’ production, and infused with those soaring Eagles harmonies. Henley’s vocal is more raw too; the heartache still seems new, which is a testament to how emotive a vocalist he can be. Or maybe five years still wasn’t enough time.

Henley lived in the fast lane, sure, but he didn’t realise he was speeding in the wrong direction. By the time he bothered to look in the rear-view mirror, she was gone.

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly

#57: Rilo Kiley – ‘Does He Love You?’ (2004)

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Being the other woman is rarely a sympathetic position to be in, so it’s a testament to Jenny Lewis’s outstanding songwriting ability that she comes across as somewhat vulnerable while doing so.

Self-deception is sad to watch, and regardless of her agency in this situation, it’s still the unnamed man balancing a mistress and a family that deserves the most scorn. Lewis isn’t morally pure, sure, but it’s hard not to feel sorry for her as she tells herself: “And when he leaves her, he’s coming out to California.”

He probably isn’t.

[A side note: Jenny Lewis had an incredible run in 2003/2004, providing vocals to Postal Service’s landmark ‘Give Up’ album; releasing ‘More Adventurous’, Rilo Kiley’s breakthrough record, which contains ‘Does He Love You?’ as well as ‘It’s A Hit’ and ‘Portions For Foxes’ (three of the finest songs of the last decade); and writing and recording the still-unreleased ‘Blood On The 4-Tracks’, with Conor Oberst. Impressive!]

California acts as the final frontier for this married man; the promise of something freer and closer to paradise. To quote Don Walker, who certainly wasn’t talking about California, it’s where “the grass is greener, the girls are sweeter.” The crux of this seems to hang on a line in the first verse: “All the immediate unknowns are better than knowing this tired and lonely fate.” Back in the real world, Lewis slowly realises that both women are being played against each other, and the husband is also being used: as comfort, as security, and as a life raft. Two late night phone calls towards the end of the song offer up interesting glimpses into this messy triangle: the wife calls the mistress to confess she only married him as she felt her time was running out, while in the next verse she overhears his pleas over the phone to another: “Baby I love you, and I’ll leave her, and I’m coming out to California.”

Again, he probably isn’t. Affairs feel romantic because of the inherent danger. Secrets can be fun. Opposing forces can galvanise a couple. The sneaking around and clandestine phone calls exist in a heightened reality, each stolen second seeming worlds’ away from joint accounts and toddlers and bills and all the day to day that becomes interlocked with serious relationships. Novelty is a powerful aphrodisiac. Ultimately, it’s usually just a fantasy, a symptom of something larger that is missing from life. ‘Does He Love You?’ ends with the same sad realisation so many ‘other women’ reach: “And your husband will never leave you. He will never leave you for me.”

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly

#56: 2Pac – ‘Dear Mama’ (1995)

Rather amusingly, the greatest ode to parental love opens with a mother kicking a son out of her home at 17.

While it’s often the parents with the limitless threshold, here it’s Tupac Shakur that holds a deep understanding of how people’s flaws aren’t the features you should focus on. Within reason, of course. He takes his share of the blame, looking back with adult eyes at the sacrifices his mother made for him. He understands. The hook/crux/point of the song is a simple, “you are appreciated.”

Shakur recorded this song just days after his 23rd birthday; equal parts gratitude, love, and acknowledgement of past wrongs. It’s always tempered by an understanding that the dramas that surrounded are further evidence of his mother’s strength. He realises the murky grey areas in life are often driven by decay and desperation, and notes these seeming contradictions throughout: the mother who was both a “crack fiend” and “made miracles every Thanksgiving” with food scraps; the drug dealers who were also loving parental surrogates to him; being able to finally provide for his mother bring counter-balanced by the darker truth of where that money came from. 

It’s easy to have clear-cut morals when they aren’t actually tested. As Chris Rock says – albeit about infidelity – a man is only as faithful as his options.

Shakur trusted his audience could handle this soft touch; despite his reputation, the majority of his catalogue is absent of the gun-toting, thug-life, you-claim-to-be-a-player-but-I-fucked-your-wife bravado that permeated some of his later music. Speaking to the L.A Times in 1995, he brought up Don McLean’s ‘Vincent’ as a surprising source of inspiration for the track, stating: “The lyric on that song is so touching. That’s how I want to make my songs feel. Take ‘Dear Mama’ — I aimed that one straight for my homies’ heartstrings.”

In 2010, the song was added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for its “cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance”. Even his own mother, arguably the only one who can take this song personally, prefers to focus on the universality, saying upon its induction: “It is a song that spoke not just to me, but every mother that has been in that situation, and there have been millions of us. Tupac recognised our struggle, and he is still our hero.”

It’s only one shard from his towering legacy, but it’s the sharpest one.

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly

#55: Ben Lee – ‘Cigarettes Will Kill You’ (1998)

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Toxic relationships are often apparent to everyone but the two people inside of them. Like cigarettes, they will eventually kill you. Like cigarettes, sometimes it’s easier to just delay the inevitable hard slog of breaking the habit and all the restless, anxious nights this entails. People who quit cigarettes act like total dicks. People who were just dumped exhibit similar dickish behaviour. Both are chemical upheavals. The fact that it will take many, many decades for these things to kill you means it’s rather easy to put off the decision to quit them; you rarely wake up in a crack den with dry blood in your hair after a hardcore tobacco bender, so it takes far too long to realise that you are – in fact – doing severe damage to yourself. Plus it does look cool.

But this isn’t about the dangers of cigarettes, in fact this song isn’t even about that. The title was pinched (kinda) from the Verve song ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’, and the only link seems to be that both cigarettes and sunshine-stealers (phrase borrowed [again] by Jenni Konner) are bad for your health.

In ‘Cigarettes Will Kill You’, Ben was blind to his girlfriend’s conniving, ladder-climbing ways, but his friends weren’t. Props to them for warning him about her, too; often it isn’t until after a relationship is dead that the true-feelings-autopsy is performed on a friend’s partner. “They swore you’d steal my steam to feed your dream and then be gone”, he sings in the chorus, before delivering the knock out blow. “I wish I could say that everyone was wrong.” Ben was used, plain and simple, and somewhere deep inside he must have known this. Maybe not though; it’s pretty damn easy to block out any unwelcome dissonance when you are in those early stages of love. Red flags look like regular flags when you are wearing rose-coloured glasses.

Ben Lee had just turned 20 when he released the ‘Breathing Tornadoes’ album, and was dating actress Claire Danes at the time. Considering she was coming off the back of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ fame, it’s doubtful she was the aforementioned steam stealer/dream-feeder in question. The pair met in April 1997, at her 18th birthday party (meet cute? more like meet-awesome) but it is conceivable that while in the flushes of new love, he was also casting his mind back to another failed romance for inspiration. Or maybe he just made the whole thing up. It doesn’t matter.

(A side note: If Ben Lee ever wished to form a cult, we should all be extremely concerned. Watching the excellent documentary ‘Catch My Disease’ about his life, it is astounding how many brilliant, gorgeous actresses fell completely under his spell,  platonic or romantic: Claire Danes, Winona Ryder, Michelle Williams, Jason Schwartzman [not technically an actress, but hey] – they all seem enthralled by him, and in each case they seemed to do the chasing, too.)

The song’s nursery rhyme melody and jaunty piano hook meant it was a fast success, helping push ‘Breathing Tornadoes’ into the mainstream charts – his first entry – and eventually being voted #2 in the 1998 Triple J Hottest 100, beaten to pole position by the charming novelty hit ‘Pretty Fly For A White Guy’, which received a flood of votes despite the fact that almost no Triple J listener admitted to liking the song at the time. Lee did himself some minor credibility damage when he claimed ‘Breathing Tornadoes’ was the greatest Australian album ever (it’s actually the 76th best, FYI) during the press cycle, after which Powderfinger vocalist Bernard Fanning memorably called him a “precocious little cunt.”

But this was just a blip in what has flourished into an interesting, artistic life, which includes a concept album about Ayahuasca, a Hindu marriage ceremony, being crowned PETA’s World’s Sexiest Vegetarian, breathing workshops which I am annoyed aren’t named ‘Breathing Tornadoes’, a stint on The Voice, and even a reunion record with his scrappy, charming teenage rock band Noise Addict. Come to think of it, that cult idea is sounding great.

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly

#54: Carole King – ‘So Far Away’ (1971)

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“Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?”

It’s the silent catch cry of those who hit a certain age where they have finally locked down their circle of friends, lovers, and lounge-rooms, only to look up one day to find the family they built has fled in single file, each in search of different cities, sleepier suburbs, families, and wagons, and adventures, and everything else that simply doesn’t exist anymore in the place they once called home. It’s timeless. It’s inevitable.

While this is often a result of outgrowing one’s younger self, the feeling was also compounded for King by generational changes around her. In the ’50s the path was clear to most: you finish or drop out of school, you either do more study or find a job in the town your grew up in, you marry someone from that same town, you become a nuclear family unit, you wash the sporting jerseys when it’s your turn, you join P&Cs, and share fences, and mow lawns, and argue about finances, and repeat ’til fade. By the late ’60s, the younger generation had seen through this charade, and began flocking to the wild wild west: California, pioneer country, where the skies were brighter and the highs were higher. Convinced there was more to life then moorings and marriage and mortgage, kids tuned out and turned on, wandering from experience to experience, travelling circuses in shitty vans searching for something vague and tantalising they couldn’t yet name – something just over the horizon.

King had made this journey herself, moving from Manhattan to Laurel Canyon in 1968, shedding a husband and a Brill Building songwriter job in the process. She met James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, and started a new chapter as a singer/songwriter.

‘So Far Away’ is from King’s second album ‘Tapestry’, which was released in 1971, and didn’t leave the charts until the twin powers of punk and disco pushed it out of vogue in 1977. Of course, this relegation was merely temporary; ‘Tapestry’ is one of those ubiquitous records that – as Wayne Campbell (of Wayne’s World) said of ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ – “If you lived in the suburbs you were issued it. It came in the mail with samples of Tide”. It sold 25 million copies, and sounds like both a greatest hits album, and a deeply personal collection of tunes about displacement, heartbreak, female empowerment, giddy lust, and everything between. Built from a bar-room piano up, it still sounds so lively 45 years after the fact, you can still feel the breeze in the room, hear the wood creaking, the band playing off each other, her warm, unaffected voice forcing the microphone to crackle. It is a thing of beauty.

King wrote the song while on the road with James Taylor in 1970, homesick and missing her kids and husband – which makes her the one in the song with the dreaded wanderlust. “One more song about moving along the highway”, she sings, noting the well worn theme. She chose this life, but she still feels she hasn’t yet worked it out her way. “I sure hope the road don’t come to own me/ There’s so many dreams I’ve yet to find.” 

“I always wanted a real home, with flowers on the windowsill”, she sings elsewhere on ‘Tapestry’ (on ‘Where You Lead’ aka the ‘Gilmore Girls’ theme), before reasoning “but if you want to live in New York City, honey you know I will”. In this case, it’s a statement of commitment to another, but it applies internally, too. It’s the push and pull that tears at so many of us – the comfort of home versus the thrill of new adventures. Movement or anchorage. It’s a choice we all have to make, so I guess the only way to retain some sense of agency is to ensure you make the decision consciously, rather than looking up one day to find that it has already been made for you.

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly

#53: Jason Isbell – ‘Elephant’ (2013)

Unlike taxes, Texas or taxi-cabs, death doesn’t discriminate. Sure, there are certain steps you can take to decrease – or increase – your chances of it happening sooner rather than later, but in the end, it’s all a big genetic lottery. It turns out that the fruit and white bread that built us strong when we were kids might have been killing us all along, while in the last few years both alcohol and coffee have been the cause of and solution to most of the ailments we’ve bothered to give names to, and probably a few we haven’t yet. Calories don’t matter anymore, sugar causes everything, some fats have graduated to being good fats, and all carbs are off limits now. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, yet skipping it can give you a blast of energy that soaking yourself in bacon and butter doesn’t seem to achieve. Regular drinking is good for stress levels, which is good for blood pressure, which is good for your literal and metaphorical heart. Caffeine was instrumental to the Age of Enlightenment but Coca Cola rots your teeth, shreds your stomach lining and can strip the rust off those coins nobody bothers to collect anymore. George Burns chain-smoked cigars until he was 100, while some babies are born allergic to the earth. Maybe we are eating the wrong animals? Maybe it’s all this fluoride in the water? Hell, maybe it’s all this water. Who said we need water?

Which is all to say: nobody knows anything, really. We are all just working it out: what to avoid, what to absorb more of, and how to balance it all so we don’t die too soon. But we all die too soon. ‘Elephant’ is a song about someone who knows she is dying too soon, spending time with someone who also knows she is dying too soon. They both pretend she isn’t.

By all rights, using the well-worn elephant in the room metaphor as a song’s main hook and conceit should make this a terrible pile of obvious trash, but it’s not – it’s stunning, and underplayed and surrounded by so much special, stark poetry that you don’t mind it. You don’t even feel the need to discuss it, should you be listening with company. It becomes the elephant in the room. It’s genius.

As stated, sickness, death, life etc. isn’t special nor is it particular graceful. Fittingly, there is a lack of sentimentality that pervades this song. It’s a weeper primarily because it really isn’t tearful about its tale. There is no cloying, cheesy drama, and the song is punctuated pointedly by swearing and weed references which helpfully steers it away from sitting alongside such easy sentimentality on country radio daytime playlists. The elephant in the room metaphor might be the song’s hook, but it’s true motto is “no-one dies with dignity.”

But is that line true? The closest thing to a dignified exit seems to be the one chronicled here: in which they ignore the presence of death all together, burning joints, flirting, laughing, and continuing to live their messy lives until that otherwise unremarkable day comes when one of them stops living – and the other continues to do so for a while.

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly