What Can We Steal From Kayleigh Goldsworthy’s “Where the Summer Goes”?
Title of Work and its Form: “Where the Summer Goes,” song
Author: Lyrics and Music by Kayleigh Goldsworthy (on Twitter @kayleighgolds)
Date of Work: 2013
Where the Work Can Be Found: I am old and don’t do iTunes, but I think you can buy Ms. Goldsworthy’s album Burrower here. (The song is on the album.) You can also buy the single of “Where the Summer Goes” here. You know what? It’s probably just easier if you go to see one of Ms. Goldsworthy’s gigs and buy the album from her. The artist was kind enough to put this song on YouTube, as well. Listen and enjoy:
Bonuses: It’s well within your interest to check out Ms. Goldsworthy’s YouTube page. You will find a nine-part documentary series about the artist’s life and the recording of Burrower.
Here is a video in which Ms. Goldsworthy performs her song “I Want You Around” (and don’t worry, the sound quality is great):
One of the great joys of being a fan of music is hearing different artists sing some of the same great songs. Here is a very chill cover of Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough”:
Element of Craft We’re Stealing: Tone
This essay will be a lot of fun, friends! Not only do I get to celebrate, analyze and share great music, but I get to write about one of my personal favorite musicians!
Several years ago, I was driving on 690 in Syracuse, heading home from my copywriting job, wondering if I’d ever achieve all of my goals in writing and in life. (I’m still a work in progress.) I flipped through the radio stations and found the FM signal of my old high school. I heard a really cool song with a solid structure, great harmonies and a circuitous melody that was somehow also simple and graceful. The song was over far too quickly. I hoped the DJ would announce the artist and song title–no dice.
Who wrote the song and how could I hear it again? In those olden days, you had to use Google to figure these things out. I repeated the lyric over and over, hoping it would stick in my Swiss cheese memory: I can’t sleep tonight and I won’t dream again, And I’m waiting for you to stop acting like them… I can’t sleep tonight and I won’t dream again, And I’m waiting for you to stop acting like them…
I popped a few of the phrases into Google, expecting to see results filled with those terrible lyrics sites.
But I saw nothing.
Identifying the song took several minutes of searching because the awesome song that affected me deeply was from a local band! And it turned out they went to school with my younger brother! There’s talent all around, friends, and it’s up to all of us to be good literary citizens. I saw The Scarlet Ending play a bunch of times and bought their albums and even wrote about them for the Syracuse New Times. The band was fronted by sisters Kayleigh and Kaleena Goldsworthy and were notable for their excellent musicianship and great songwriting. TSE even performed through the USO, playing music for military servicemembers across the globe.
After that celebration of the past, let’s celebrate the present and future.
Kayleigh Goldsworthy’s “Where the Summer Goes” is a song that draws inspiration from and builds upon the tradition of American country and folk music. You can hear the acoustic guitar blending with the banjo, some simple percussion and the persistent, close harmony; a setup that certainly isn’t out of place at any point in American history. This is music that offers comfort, whether played on a front porch or in the dive bar where you drown your sorrows. Compare the instrumentation and tone to that of some old-timey bluegrass music:
“Where the Summer Goes,” like so much American folk and country music, has an upbeat and hopeful tone that softens the sadness of the narrator’s situation. She (or he, who knows?) laments the departure of an unfaithful lover (or at least one who won’t commit). The narrator reaffirms her love for the man, but tells him that she will seek a better and more fulfilling partner.
What can Ms. Goldsworthy teach us? Quite a bit, actually. I wish that I could tell you all kinds of advanced music theory stuff we should steal from the song (sorry, Ms. Jacobe), but writers of poetry and prose would do well to steal the way Ms. Goldworthy has made her sad song happy. As I’ve said before, the reader should have an emotional impact as a result of the characters and situation you construct. You can’t expect a reader to be sad just because you are. No, you have to tease those feelings out…you have to earn them.
Here’s an example of a songwriter who put zero scrim between his own feelings and those he wished to express in the song:
We’re laughing at Adam Sandler’s character when he sings the song. The character, on the other hand, wants us to feel the same sadness and loss that he feels. “Where the Summer Goes” actually provides catharsis (a purging of negative emotions) for the listener because the sadness is delivered by a narrator (and performer) who is inviting the audience on a mutual journey, not just shouting “BE SAD FOR ME” for three minutes.
I’m fairly sure that Patsy Cline never said “fucking” on one of her albums. Where does the word “fucking” appear? Hey…this means I get a chance to break down the structure of the song. Whoo hoo!
|INTRODUCTION||Instrumental, banjo line establishes this is a bluegrassy tune.|
|VERSE 1||“Riding by the river…”|
|VERSE 2||“So these days I stay awake…”|
|CHORUS||“Two rights; well, they’ll never make a wrong…”|
|VERSE 3||“Still I’m waiting every day…”|
|CHORUS||“’Cause two rights…”|
|VOCAL SOLO||“Oooooo…”||Ms. Goldsworthy sings a new melody over the same chords she used for the chorus; this prevents a little repetition and shows off her voice|
|VERSE 4||“You say you’d rather be alone…”||The accompaniment gets far softer, adding dynamic contrast to the song. As Ms. Goldsworthy sings “it’s your fucking loss,” everything goes back to forte to pound the sentiment home.|
|CHORUS||“’Cause two rights…”|
The songwriter put the word “fucking” in the fourth verse. Now doesn’t that make sense? Think of it this way: remind yourself of an ex who really mistreated you and hurt your feelings. You’re not too angry right now. Let those memories percolate for a few minutes. Oh yeah, she broke up with you and then wore a rainbow miniskirt to show everyone else the legs you never got to see. That’s right; he told you that he tucked your sister into bed, but failed to mention that he was in the bed with her. See? Now you’re angry. Now you’re apt to use, as George Carlin put it, “heavy” words. The judicious use of the “naughty” words may turn off some listeners, but that’s their problem. The word “fucking” in this song is a magic incantation that undoes the narrator’s emotional dependence on the bad guy. We hear the chorus for the third time and the narrator finally believes it and has finally broken the spell.
As I said, one thing I love about Ms. Goldsworthy’s songwriting is the way she can create melodies that are both languorous and exciting at the same time. Upon first listen, you’re not really sure where the line is going…but when it’s over, the line seems perfect and natural. Unfortunately, I can’t write much about the musical aspect of the music, but I can unpack the structure of the lyric. Check out the first verse as posted by Ms. Goldsworthy:
Riding by the river, I don’t know where the summer goes
Or why you stayed the night and then you left me all alone
Still, I couldn’t stay away even though you wouldn’t change
Up your mind or your story in the morning
So these days I stay awake through the twilight every day
Take another hit of something just to ease the pain away
But I couldn’t bear to breathe in the dust from when you leave
so I cried and told my heart to just keep beating
Uh oh. I want to get under the hood of the meter Ms. Goldsworthy uses in the verse. Let’s look at another table:
Riding by the river, don’t know where the summer goes trochaic septameter Or why you stayed the night and then you left me all alone trochaic septameter Still, I couldn’t stay away (ignore “still) two iambs even pyrrhus though you wouldn’t change two trochees Up your mind or your story in the morning iambic pentameter
Maybe all of the songwriter’s verses fit together so beautifully because she’s always changing the rhythm of the lines. Perhaps the freshness and novelty is what I admired in that song so many years ago. I love that she alternates between trochees (STRESSED/unstressed) and iambs (unstressed/STRESSED). You’ll also notice that the song comes together very well because of the complicated rhyme scheme; there’s end rhyme and internal rhyme and the lines of each verse end in “-ing.” (Not technically a rhyme, but doing so makes the song come together in a satisfying fashion.)
What Should We Steal?
- Adjust your tone so as not to ENFORCE an emotional state on your reader. Show your reader what they need in order to feel what you want them to feel, don’t just tell them how they should respond to your work.
- Build up to the big emotions, the big actions and the “heavy” words. “Naughty” words are like spice in a pot of chili. They can make a work more powerful and delicious or they can just burn your mouth.
- Switch up your sentences, rhythms and meter to keep your audience listening and guessing. Your reader wants to wonder, but he or she also wants to know that you have a plan in mind once the meandering is done.