There’s just something about Anthony Hamilton’s voice. Its rough, gravelly quality smoothed out with a bit of molasses betrays a long history of pain, of rough times, of love lost and found. His voice is instantly recognizable: gruff and gritty, yet tender; strong and earthy, with a thin undercurrent of emotional fragility just below the surface. And while the very timbre of his voice is a play on opposites, one thing is for certain: Anthony Hamilton sings the truth, chile.
The song begins with Hamilton’s belting out a loud and soulful “Oh.” But it’s not just any “oh.” Oh no. Immediately, this “oh” hints at the despair, the frustration, and a bit of hopefulness that he’s feeling. And this “oh” leaves you smoldering. Guts wrenched out. Get ready for what’s coming up. Anthony’s got a story to tell you.
He’s split up with his lover, his best friend, his soul mate. Any breakup is painful to some degree, but this particular kind, the kind I like to call the “no call, no show” tactic, has got to be one of the worst:
You could have called, you could have wrote, you could have triedAnyone who’s been dumped in this way immediately understands the bewilderment; the betrayal; the endless questioning of self; the indescribable pain. Oh Jah, the crippling pain:
I’d rather you slit me ‘cross the throat so I can die
Instead of leaving, no explanation as to why
You don't want me no more
I'm a mess right now, I can't eat, can't sleepHamilton’s sorrowful pace is relentless. The listeners get no reprieve from the emotional journey he takes you on. In fact, after the second verse and chorus, the backup singers sing the following:
Bills are piling high, ain't worked in three weeks
Ain't bathed, can't shave, ‘cause my heart is so tender like living in a blender
I'm shaken and I'm stirred
Call me, write me, love meYou think it’s going to end at two repetitions, but no. It becomes the song’s coda and becomes a seemingly endless pleading for the loved one’s return. It’s an emotional request from the spurned lover whose level of loneliness increases with each increasing octave. Call me. Write me. Love me. Come home.
If you’re a sensitive bitch like me, I dare you to not be able to identify – or to not cry, even – singing along to this part. As the pitch increases, your throat and vocal cords tie themselves into knots – but does your throat hurt because you’re not that great a singer and are having trouble reaching the notes, or is it painful because each repetition brings that all-too-familiar ball in your throat, as if you were holding back the tears? And at the same time the pitch increases, the coda takes you to a deeper level of pain and desperation: This visceral reaction is almost as if it was you, in fact, who was left behind by a lover who disappeared without a trace.
And maybe you really are that person who was left behind, in which case this song becomes an emotional post-breakup catharsis. And maybe through the sorrow in Hamilton's voice, you eventually realize that he will never call. He will never write. He will never love you. And he will never come home.
But you will get through it. Eventually.