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Number 10

Patty Loveless!  I haven’t heard anything by you in forever. Where you the hell are you, lady? 

Remember that time you tried in vain to think about Elvis, and various other subjects to keep your mind off this man to whom you were strongly attracted? 

Or that other time, when you were educating your lover about the karmic fate he and his Lyin’, Cheatin’, Cold, Dead-Beatin’, Two-Timin’, Double-Dealing, Mean, Mistreatin’, Lovin’ Heart could expect in future romances?  God, that was awesome. 

And then, of course, there is our Number 10 song.  I may as well get this out of the way first: it’s sappy. 

“But Andrew!” you protest, “Aren’t all of the songs on this countdown pretty sappy? Isn’t that kind of the point?’ 

Well, I mean…yes.  Sort of.

But this song is gratuitously sappy.  This is the kind of sap that keeps greeting card company CEOs in young wives and fancy boats for life.  This is the sap you get from songwriters who’ve studied their target audience just a liiiitle too carefully.   This is the kind of sap that involves sitting on your bed, staring wistfully at your freaking wedding photo, while your husband’s packing his bags to leave you.  (Reba McEntire does not condone this kind of sap.)

It’s the kind of sap that once made certain unnamed 6-year olds secretly cry in bed late at night.

The plot: mother comforts daughter at various moments of loss (including one final, wrenching one) with tough-lovin’, one-size-fits-all platitudes about change (eg; ” Time will ease your pain.”   Uh.  Thanks, Mom.)  

Except it’s not that cut-and-dried, because the platitudes turn out to be only a preamble to her true offer of comfort:

How can I help you to say goodbye? It’s OK to hurt, and it’s OK to cry.  Come let me hold you, and I will try.  How can I help you to say goodbye?

And this is where all of the sap clears enough to expose something genuine.  It’s the “Ok to hurt/Ok To cry” that gets to me first.  Suddenly, this stops sounding like a greeting card, and starts making me think about my own mother.  The tough love is doled out first (want to make the child strong enough to face the hardships of life, mom reasons), but it quickly gives way to tenderness (maybe she catches the look of agony on her daughter’s face, and is overcome; or maybe she’s had this balanced approach in mind the whole time.)  It ends up working to make “Time will ease your pain,” feel less like a detached cliche’, and more like actual wisdom.  The final time it’s sung, the words of the refrain are less important than the shared understanding between mother and daughter they invoke. 

And yes, that final verse and refrain still made me want to cry a little when I listened to it for the first time again two years ago.  It was just more embarrassing this time around, because I was fully concious of the sap.

Major gratitude goes to Emily both for reminding me about this one, and for admitting that it used to make her want to cry, too. 



3 responses »

  1. The thing that keeps the amount of sap acceptable is the way she sings it, for sure. I don’t think a lesser artist could pull this song off acceptably. Additionally, I think I’d forgotten that “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am” existed. I love that song. 🙂

  2. Dude! Both of these songs are on my ipod right now. I was listening to this mix yesterday! Long dark car rides will do this to you. Speaking of sappy songs to which I am embarassingly attracted, have you heard “But For The Grace of God” by Keith Urban?

  3. i just want to admit, because i think it’s thematically relevant, that i remember being in the minivan driving around with my mom when this first came out. it always got me. so i would cry quietly, so she wouldn’t know, looking out the window or pretending to read a book, with tears just rolling down my face. and she never called me on it, even though looking back i’m pretty i wasn’t as subtle as i thought i was then.


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