James Blake’s Love Song
By: Connor Lenahan
When Pitchfork released their list of the “Top 100 Songs of 2013,” they ranked “Retrograde” by James Blake at #21. A few other sites I had seen had also included “Retrograde” as one of the top songs of the year. I had never heard this song, nor did I have any idea as to who James Blake was.
I read the blurb about “Retrograde” on Pitchfork’s list and was immediately intrigued. One part of their review captured my attention specifically. “’Retrograde’ will go down as the exact moment when [Blake] exited his hermetic cave of existential, world-weary grief and found a way to make being in love sound…actually about as lonely as not being in love. It’s complicated.”
I rushed to go listen to the song. I was sold by that description alone. Blake has a beautiful falsetto that begins the song along with a hollow piano. This song reminds me of Drake’s Nothing Was The Same via an odd production choice. While listening to “Retrograde” it seems as though there is a larger space the song occupies than the inches between your ears. There is an expansive soundscape for the music to play on. “Retrograde” has this, as does songs like “Own It,” “The Lanugage,” “Worst Behavior,” and “Too Much” from Nothing Was The Same.
The mellow vibe of the song builds along with Blake’s voice before crashing with the line “Suddenly I’m hit/Is this darkness of the dawn?” I still get shivers even after countless replays the past few days. “Retrograde” has this odd ability to suck you in through the keys that fill the previously empty space the song echoed through. It’s haunting. It’s captivating. It’s wonderful.
Blake claims the song’s meaning is about falling in love, yet it’s impossible to leave this song without feeling two things: 1. The need to further understand what is going on within the track; as Pitchfork said, it’s complicated. There are many beautiful moving
pieces to digest. And 2. The feeling of isolation. Blake repeats “Ignore everybody else, we’re alone now,” and “your friends are gone, your friends won’t come,” multiple times. For a love song, it forces loneliness like solitary confinement on Valentine’s Day.
Blake’s voice and musicianship are what steal the show. Everything about this track is powerful while remaining calm. Blake is a wizard. This is why Pitchfork named it one of the best songs of the year, and that’s why I wholeheartedly agree.
Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is the founder and editor-in-chief of Connorlenahan.com. He is a freshman at Boston University, majoring in journalism. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
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I am huge fan of James Blake’s phenomenon known as “Retrograde.” I actually first heard the track in the closing scene of the second episode of Showtime’s hit show “Masters of Sex.” I urgently tried to remember the bits and pieces of the lyrics, so that I could Google search and find the product of the beautifully crafted sound of heaven that went all to well with the dramatic scene I just witnessed.It’s been on every study, relaxation, rainy day, lonely nights playlists on my phone. I actually read an article that explained the video concept of “Retrograde” and Blake explained that the song also speaks on The song is about the isolation in growing up.Needless to say, I was utterly and completely mindblown! I dove back into replaying the song to be fully indulged in his musical vision, and could do nothing but relate to the love and growing up aspects. I am not entirely sure if any other current artist in his genre will be able to captivate my attention they way he has, but it was love after first listen.
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Help me write my besT song to Blake, I must meet with him… I must ” he’s the one” and I’m embarrassed ::shrugs::