Growing up, I always thought there were two kinds of songs. There were the religious, let-us-break-bread-together-on-our-knees kind, and there were love songs. I remember sitting cross-legged in front of the TV and watching an episode of Double Dare on Nickelodeon. Mark Summers was interviewing the kids before the game started. He approached one girl with long brunette hair. He looked at his note card and stated that the girl wrote songs in her spare time. He asked her if they were love songs. I frowned at the TV. Weren't they all love songs? The girl blushed, embarrassed, and said yes.
Despite 24 years spent enmeshed and working intimately in the English language, despite A's in Old English Poetry, Middle Welsh Poetry (yes), Seventeenth Century Poetry and Twentieth Century American Poetry, I still have a difficult time reconciling that there are songs that are not about relationships. After all, even all those Hosanna in the Highests I sang growing up were about man's relationship and love for God. Come on, Mark Summers, what other kind of songs are there?
Rolling Stone often publishes articles analyzing rap lyrics, detailing which rappers are currently battling. Those articles always blow my mind. I am nothing if not trained to take the English language and break it down into subtext and I can't figure out rap lyrics. Similarly I once read that Sara Bareilles penned the song "Love Song"—which I had thought was about a man—was in actuality a veiled reference to her producers about her struggle to produce a marketable love song. Once again, mind = blown.
Sunday I slipped on my barefoot trainers and ran along the river. It was cold and wet, but I needed a day to be alone with nature. I programmed my iPod shuffle to play Mumford & Sons. I had not listened to the band since I had been dumped; it was time to conciliate my relationship with them again.
I jogged down the path with the river to my right. The water level was high with the recent rain. The traffic on the trail was light, but people were still present. Mumford & Sons began to softly croon and I was okay; I didn't think of Valdosta and cry like I imagined I would have if I had kept the album close to me after the relationship. I heard the tinkling of the banjo and watched the Chattahoochee River. I smiled. It was all so very Georgia.
"Awake My Soul" was playing. As with any good song, when the tempo increased, I pushed myself faster. I could feel the pebbles between my toes, hear the steady whoosh of the river and feel the cool air stab my lungs like tiny sewing pins. "Awake my soul," he kept repeating, his voice becoming stronger and stronger with the actualization of the sentiment. I did feel awake.
And for the first time, the song wasn't about Valdosta or any boy for that matter; it was about me. And it wasn't a love song.
Or maybe it was.