Song 41: Mirah, “Sweepstakes Prize” (2000)


One of my favorite pieces of writing is “Shooting Dad” by Sarah Vowell. The essay is about her years-long struggle to reconcile her father’s gun-loving beliefs with her own, and one of her efforts to find common ground goes like this: “I love noise. As a music fan, I’m always waiting for that moment in a song when something just flies out of it and explodes in the air.”

I always think of that line when I hear Mirah’s “Sweepstakes Prize,” specifically the part at 2:56 when something in the song, yes, flies out of it and explodes in the air. This song does two things that, as a songwriter, I’ve always struggled with: 1) writing positively without coming across as trite or contrived, and 2) matching a song’s lyrics to its music. This song is a beautiful description of love, one that doesn’t ignore how hard it can be but accurately describes it as feeling like you’ve won a contest. The first verse includes the line “you sparkle and burn but you take your time,” which is perfect, because the whole thing combusts a few minutes later, as if Mirah just can’t keep it in any longer.

Love is good.


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