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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Hot 100 Review: Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi

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This is the first modern song, that wasn’t a Holliday song, I had heard before. I can tell you already that it is not an amazing or great song by any means.

Lewis Capaldi is a second cousin once removed from British actor, and Dr Who alum, Peter Capaldi (thanks Wikipedia for knowing that). Lewis has been blowing up across the pond, and this is his first song to break over into our market.

The best way to describe the song is as an Ed Sheeran-lite experience. It has all the same ideas and themes with none of the interesting wordplay, visual storytelling, or vocals needed to pull it off.

The song begins with a piano melody that is simple and unchanging. The vocals come in as Lewis talks about how he is drowning without this person, and needs them to help, but really just to numb the pain he is in. Mixing metaphors from drowning to numbing is weird and kind of hackney.

He transitions to the chorus where he says how that as day becomes night he feels lost and like the rug with pulled out from under him because he was used to being the person she loved. This is his big, boisterous declaration and where is voice causes a problem.

I don’t want to insult the man and say that I could sing better. I can’t, and I am recovering from a sinus infection so I have no voice now, but Lewis Capaldi sounds rough. The best description is if a hound dog learned how to sing in human. It’s that same rough, unaltered, loose note structured. This all reaches its apex when he has to give a big declaration of love and loss and I can only hear my own dogs howling. It is not good, but I think has a secret as to why it works, and why it has been in the Top 10 of the Hot 100 for so long.

Going from the chorus we get his second verse. He repeats a lot of his first verse. The only change comes at the end where he admits that she helped him escape. The metaphor isn’t as mixed because you can escape water, but that doesn’t make it less cliche, and structured weird. Breakups, in my opinion go from they save you to they help the numbing pain. Not the other way around. It would also show a more destructive tendency in the writing that would explain why they broke up because we didn’t get receive anything about their relationship in this song.

After that we get the chorus again, a bridge where Lewis says that being in their arms was safe. Those lines are fine compared to the rest of the song. Nothing original, but reinforces the theme. The song ends with repeating the chorus, and reiterating that he felt like the rug was pulled out from under him.

There are two videos for this song. One features his more famous cousin, Peter is in. That’s not the main one so I’ll look at the second, more standard one where we see Lewis Capaldi right after his girlfriend (she’s quite pretty, just as a side note. The video doesn’t hold my attention well I latch onto her looks) breaks up with him. Someone helps him get up and walking away, but he tries to go back to her. Random citizens have to try and keep him away from her and push him away from her. It is revealed that no one was there to hold him back, and he was just scream singing to his ex girlfriend from across the street. She turns and walks away from him and the video ends.

This video works for the song. It sets the tone for the song, looks nice, and make that terrible scream singing make diegetic (look at me going to my music and film class vocabulary) to what is going on. It also uses the bystanders well by having them ebb and flow like a tide with the volume of Lewis’s scream singing. It is also not real memorable like the song itself. Again, fits really well.

I would not say this is a good song by any means. The vocals are rough, the song is repetitive lyrically and in the medley, and it is just cliche. Those are not positive properties to have, but I understand why they made this song popular. For all my complaining, the song is easy to listen to on repeat as I do. Similarly to Memories by Maroon 5 it sounds like what we think music should be. You tune into the song. It’s got a traceable melody and cord progression, it uses a normal instrument, someone is singing, and it kind of sounds like it’s got emotions and is about something. You can tune in every couple seconds and confirm you’re listening to something. The song being three minutes helps. It is not a slog to get through, and loops well.

Something I often look over, but is a big factor is that pop music is for the new generation. Sure, it’s for everyone, but it’s main target is a new listener, and new listeners who would like this song are probably young. I say this because I feel like I could lob all these criticism at bands from my childhood like Nickleback or 3 Doors Down. I would say many of their songs have the same problem, but I still love Kyrptonite and How You Remind Me even for their flaws. I may not love this song, or think it is any good, but it didn’t drive me crazy like Godzilla did with everything going on in that.