The Break : Reflecting on current events through music
In light of everything that has been happening since the beginning of this new decade, I decided to write a series of articles to reflect on the reality that we are facing. A song that I found myself listening quite frequently during quarantine has been Lay My Troubles Down from the 2016 EP ‘’Better days’’ by the British artist Aaron Taylor.
One of the first things that struck me about this song is its relevance, even four years down the line from its original release. With its hopeful melody, soulful sound and extremely relatable message this song seemed perfect to start this article series, so, without further ado let’s dive into this reflection.
I can't wait 'til the day Where I lay my troubles down
The downbeat and the groovy sound are something that instantly captures you, inviting you in to listen to the remaining of the song. And as you nod your head to the beat, you almost feel immediately teleported into a hot spring afternoon in mid-May in the early 70s. You are walking home after a long day of work; the sun is up high and the sky is blue with no presence of any clouds whatsoever. The neighbourhood's kids are out playing in the heat, they are laughing, ignorant of the worries of life. You, on the other hand, are daydreaming of laying all your troubles down. Because you're tired. So tired of everything that you almost feel detached from the heat radiating from the furnace that is the sun and the laughter of the neighbourhood children. You are just thinking of home.
Finally arriving home.
And home can have various meanings, but at the core, it should be a place of safety, a place where you can remove the masks you’ve been wearing throughout the day and finally be able to be your true self. A place to rest, to sit back, eat and relax.
The meaning of this place can be extended to a metaphorical “home” which is not an actual place per se, but an object or even a person that enables you to let your guard down.
However, this place that you are trying to reach seems almost unattainable, you reason, as you remember that the world somehow seems to be against you.
The idea of ''home'' is one of the main themes that are seen throughout this EP and its sole presence ushers us to realise the other underlying, escapism. Through this song we can see how Taylor has brilliantly managed to intertwine together these two seemingly contrasting themes in the melody and in the lyrics, the latter suggests a desire of escape and the former is rather inciting an exciting and more carefree attitude.
The trouble in my soul It will be no more I just wanna be Free forevermore
Nevertheless, the song leads to a positive note towards the end with an excerpt from Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s speech ‘’I've Been to the Mountaintop ‘’ (1968), the last speech he would deliver before his assassination. In this excerpt, Dr King talks about how the right response of the believers is not just to fantasise about heaven in hope of evading reality but rather to see this hope on Earth, in the very slums that they so much wanted to run away from. Dr King’s message here is played in the background overlaid with the repetition of the first verse of the song, the very declaration of escapism that Dr King was addressing.
''It's all right to talk about "long white robes over yonder," in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here. It's all right to talk about "streets flowing with milk and honey," but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can't eat three square meals a day. It's all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God's preachers must talk about the New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.'' - Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
This is a call to duty. A responsibility, a desire even that the artist may be trying to run away from as the speech is juxtaposed with the very escapist lyrics ''I can't wait 'til the day Where I lay my troubles down''. It sounds as if Taylor is trying to muffle out Dr King's words with his own wishes, choosing to dream about home rather than taking responsibility of creating a home, the place of safety, right where he is.
Needless to say, this song, seemingly simple in words, and complex in sound is, in reality, a subtle yet much needed implicit mirror reflecting the face of society. What are our responses to what we see and hear? Are we just seeking to escape reality, longing for a better place one day? Or are we taking the time to digest and discard what is necessary from what is not in our communities, in our relationships?
I’ll leave you to answer these questions.