Aug 8, 2006

Anthony Hamilton Sings the Truth

I know he has a newer album out, but I am still obsessed with Anthony Hamilton’s “I’m a Mess,” from 2003’s Comin’ From Where I’m From. And here’s why:

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 tried
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
Anyone 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'm a mess right now, I can't eat, can't sleep
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
Hamilton’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:
Call me, write me, love me
Come home
You 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.

3 comments:

Adobo said...

Hmm interesting. As far as my current faves on the being dumped song list, I prefer Blunt's "Goddbye my Lover", ending with the lyrics, "I'm so hollow baby". His sad puppy dog eyes even make it more tragic. slurp!

tiff said...

I heart Anthony Hamilton, you're right, there is something about his voice! So honest and raw.

I love his new joint, Can't Let Go. Gets me everytime.

gabe said...

I'm working on a website for a newer Soul artist for my firm and was required to "immerse" myself in Soul music prior. I ended up nonchalantly plopping in Can't Let Go" by Anthony Hamilton in iTunes wearing headphones. Two minutes later it was Niagara Falls as I got images of an ex girlfriend.

Powerful stuff. Should come with a warning label. But man what a purge, really brings you back down to earth...Remembering love.