Hot 100 Review: Before you Go by Lewis Capaldi

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You will not meet a bigger proponent for the return of normal instruments and song structure back into popular music. Not to say music that breaks from it is bad, but it often would have been better served if it were. That means people like Peter Capaldi should be Godsends. Finally, a return to normal structure. Unfortunately, a good structure doesn’t a good song make. Structure is but a framework. It’s the components that make something great. And the components for Before You Go are overall lacking.

When adhering to a well-worn structure there normally two paths to take when completing it. One is to have a musically simple song that is built on strong and clever lyrics. The other is a complex melody, chords, and arrangement that is grounded by straightforward lyrics. Not every good song falls into these categories, but as a framework it is solid. Before You Go is both musically and lyrically simple. Very straightforward guitar and piano arrangements. The lyrics, too, are simple, but also sort of interesting.

Before you Go is a consument breakup song. It is about not seeing the forest for the trees. Ignoring or overlooking the little signs, and paying the price for them by asking them something before they go. It can be a powerfully strong and sad concept when hit the right way. This song does not hit the right way.

Of the many reasons for it, is how seemingly clueless the narrator is. Cluelessness as a trait isn’t wrong on its own, but Peter the writer doesn’t seem to realize that the cluelessness is the reason for the breakup. Or, more specifically, the reason he has to ask, “So, before you go/Was there something I could’ve said to make your heart beat better?,” and “So, before you go/Was there something I could’ve said to make it all stop hurting?” is because he was unable to realize the problems with his love interest or refused to see the problems. That might be fine if that was reflected, but Peter seems to disagree as his thoughtlessness and cluelessness is blantantly overlooked.

This is best shown from, “When you hurt under the surface/Like troubled water running cold,” “Was never the right time, whenever you called/Went little by little by little until there was nothing at all,” and the bridge, “Would we be better off by now/If I’d have let my walls come down?/Maybe, I guess we’ll never know/You know, you know…”

These lines by themselves don’t sound too bad. But together they compound, along with Capaldi’s incredibly whiny voice, to be unbearable. It sounds like he is trying to come off strong and sincere, but instead every time he talks about the relationship it sounds like a dog begging for food. That makes all the talk seem disingenuous. He might be hurt and sad but he’s not honestly reflecting, just moaning.

A line that people might call foul on with this reading is in the first verse when the narrator says, “Our every moment, I start to replace/Cause now that they’re gone, all I hear are the words that I needed to say.” That sounds like the person realized what the did wrong all along, and even as it does say that, it’s not accurate since that’s in the first verse and the rest of the song doesn’t support him. It sounds, again with the singing, like him whining and saying anything to get the other person to believe him.

The video throws whatever the song was supposed to mean out the window, into traffic, then get run over by said traffic, and then rained on for good measure. The lyrics and framing without the song all feel to be built around a terrible breakup. It seems incredibly obvious. The video, though, decides to make the song about losing a loved one, but in the shedding their mortal coil way, not breaking up way.

To support this point, the video starts by focusing on the romantic relationship between a guy and a girl. Throughout the video it goes to the girl with other people doing things like skating, playing on the beach, visiting family in the hospital. Normal, good person stuff. Then it takes a turn when the video is suddenly at a funeral for her and there are flashbacks of her. It then ends with her voicemail playing. All of this clearly states that she died quickly and tragically. Most likely by accident. I assume accident because the other would be…

It’s not hard, if you read the video as part of Capaldi’s intent to center around suicide. The not saying or calling are now even worse than a breakup but signs someone needed help but were ignored. That is far more tragic. That turns the “Before you go,” into a wish being able to help but can’t. Unfortunately the video doesn’t have any contacts to the Suicide prevention hotline, or anything like that. It just means the girl died and it’s sad. Unrequited words and feelings for a person is strong, but the song by itself isn’t about that. Or it would have made that the focus instead of adding it with the video.

So, I heard this song before. I reviewed Peter Capaldi’s last song and watched this video closer to when it came out… months ago. This song making it onto the top 10 shows just how strenuous the charts and all entertainment media is with the virus. No songs have come around to shake it up. They are stuck playing songs from the BC era. Some of them, like Circles or Blinding Light are good and deserve the more praise they get. Some, like this, less so. A bland song trying to punch above its weight with a video it can hardly support lyrically.

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