Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Tracey Thorn – Queen

We sure think so…


Alex Ostroff: Hey, Calum Scott? Remember when I said that pain aches truer and more beautifully on the dancefloor? Listen to this on loop until it sinks in. (Thorn’s what ifs and regrets and disappointments hit me in a place that’s too real to write about earnestly now.)

Alfred Soto: She’s blown her pipes, I thought at first. On second listen the newly serrated edges of Tracey Thorn’s voice adds sardonicism to another synthed-up chapter in her ongoing project of limning the quiet lives of men and women who deserve more than they’re getting. “Am I queen or something else I might have been/a star backseat of a blacked-out car?” she sings, as usual keeping her head while others lose theirs. 

Maxwell Cavaseno: There’s a strain of age on “Queen,” but it doesn’t sound weathered or like any notion of “grit.” Instead, it’s the slight lean and stretch of lacking juice, that slight warp from a draining battery rather than the distortion of technological grain. Tracey Thorn’s voice has more character in its defeated qualities than any sort of valiant victory — not so much tragic, but retiring and wilted. You get the sense of someone who’s well past their so-called glory days, but rather than insist that they have more to say, resigns themselves to allow more from their smoldering moments.

Tim de Reuse: The synth backdrop is unsatisfying, calling back to years of cheap digital synthesizers and anemic drum samples with a bit too much gusto, and it struggles to match the force behind Thorn’s voice. Not all the melodies work perfectly — some are far too heavy-handed and predictable — but the unresolved theme behind the unanswered “do I ever find love?” soars every time.

Katherine St Asaph: “Queen” is an entirely different song depending on whether you think she has found love, and is marveling at the million tiny ways the world could have changed to prevent that (and a different song still if the thought makes her terrified, not awed), or if she hasn’t, and is scouring the past for the mistake. I think she means the former, but the song sounding exactly like “Thank God It’s Not Christmas” (“great things to say or do / aren’t done by you / obviously”) tips it back toward the latter for me. A piece of music writing, really writing-writing, that I think about a lot is the Jukebox’s Erika, in the comments of Lily Allen’s “22“: “At 22 you could have been anything, but at 26 you now are something. And something is a lot more limited than anything…. Like, when you started reading Gawker, you were 20 years old, and the authors and the whiz kids that everybody was buzzing about were a few years older than you, you looked at them and you thought, psh, you could write a novel as good as that in the next few years. You’d have them beat. And at 22 you were still reading Gawker, and the ones everyone was buzzing about were the same age as you…. And as time passes, 22 starts to look like the border of your ability to accomplish something, and be special for it, and you know you’ve crossed that border and are walking farther and farther away every day, and if you don’t have an amazing career by now then what is there left to do? What is there left to look forward to? Maybe you can still fall in love. Maybe you can still get married. Maybe you need to go out and meet as many people as you can.” And now it’s 2018, no one’s reading Gawker because it’s been demolished by a comic-book billionaire, and so many people I know feel as if the world’s been kicked out from beneath them. It’s not the political climate — though that certainly doesn’t help — but the sense that their life suddenly happened and then unhappened. Everyone describes it differently, but they all independently come up with Hollywood terms: dying sitcoms, ex-child stars, the US version of royalty. Sometimes I imagine that myself-from-my-old-life is still out there, “Evil Doppelgangers“-style, younger, in a much glitzier locale, with more to say to more people. Is she queen? Does she ever find love? Whose odds are better, hers or mine? “Might have been” is a lot less limited than “is.”

Thomas Inskeep: Ewan Pearson provides Tracey Thorn with a driving beat and high-BPM synthpop backing; Thorn provides an impeccably written song and her always-awesome vocals. Love the way she’s using her lower register on this. Damned right she’s a queen.

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11 Responses to “Tracey Thorn – Queen”

  1. Jesus Katherine way to nail me to the wall O_O

  2. KSA’s blurb is interesting to read as a 20 year old. Is there a way not to miss the boat? Is splitting off from your glitzy doppelgänger inevitable? Are young writers fated to become dying sitcoms? And if you are successful, is a form of arrested development *also* inevitable?

    I have no idea where or what I’ll be when I’m 26, but I hope it still involves writing (or even music.)

  3. uh. well. I’d say you have an enormous advantage, in not being me

  4. “Are young writers fated to become dying sitcoms?”

    Too generous.

  5. it isn’t just writers, though, nor is it just people my age — these are people 20s to 60s, across professions. always specifically the past 10 years or so, too. I have no idea what it is. it isn’t the president. it isn’t the recession, either — the timing’s wrong. in my case, at least, I can think of a dozen-plus individual screwups* that all contribute, but it’d be incredibly presumptuous to say that about anyone else.

  6. wow this song. and wow, these blurbs

  7. that thank god it’s not christmas cover is so sick thank you katherine

  8. Sometimes I listen to these songs and think not much of them and then these blurbs open up a whole new world. Thanks guys ?

  9. The way I’ve ended up thinking my way out of Katherine’s trap — speaking only for myself — is to decide that the younger, glitzier, less suburban version of me actually had less to say than the person I ended up becoming does. (But that’s only a conclusion I’ve been able to come to recently, in a very particular set of circumstances; in 2012 I didn’t believe that at all.)

  10. I mean, the other possibility is that the apocalypse should have occurred earlier this decade after all, and my entire life past that was not intended to continue. the evidence is compelling

  11. I think about this song a lot.

    I’m a massive fan of EBTG in all its iterations, but this one is special. Not exactly because it’s my favorite song but because I know what this song would mean to me in my 20s and what it means to me know. Katherine St Asaph’s review articulated it so wonderfully—I can remember the pure white hit anxious urgency of my 20s (and if I’m being honest, much later)—am I doing the right thing? Every small decision has the opportunity to drive every moment for the rest of my life, and i can’t be sure it’s not already gone.

    After a couple times of hearing the song though, I thought about it from the perspective about being in my 40s, married, a father, and the overwhelming fragility of my life hit me—what if I had gone onto India without going on that date with my wife. Would I ever find love? And certainly not with this woman and these two little boys. So it’s a little different from what I think you’re saying—the possibilities are cemented and the tragedy is what if I had missed this. The specialness of the song is that each interpretation coexists.

    If I remember correctly (which I may not), Thorn’s memoir is bookended by being tapped to open for U2 on one of their massive tours and feeling like it was a chance to achieve the massive stardom that they sought in their low-key way for 20 odd years. The book ends with them opting out and dissolving the band, just to pursue quiet family life and the occasional solo album or newspaper column when the mood hits. That’s this song too.

    Like I said, I think about this song a lot.

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