Song 143: The Jayhawks, “Blue” (1995)

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Despite the fact that some of its songs are pretty sad, all of Tomorrow the Green Grass reminds me sunshine. Maybe it’s the harmonies, or the warm production, or that album cover, which features the Jayhawks hanging out in a forest. Or maybe it’s the fact that I first heard it after borrowing it from my friend Lindsay at summer camp. Whatever the reason, the album reminds me of warm (but not uncomfortably hot) weather. It just feels like comfort.

“Blue” is probably the Jayhawks’ most popular song, and for a good reason: it’s gorgeous. It’s also expertly written. This is another one that I didn’t notice had no rhymes, but now that I know it, I think that choice gives the song the disjointed aspect it needs. The parts seem to be in place–Mark Olson and Gary Louris, as always, sound beautiful together, and that acoustic guitar practically shimmers–but if everything truly was in place, how could this song ever convey the sadness within? Not everything matches or fits, just like the characters in this song. It’s so close to perfect, but not quite.

The thing I like most about “Blue” is the chord that happens when they sing the title word. It’s a G#, a “III” chord for the key of E (that is, G# is three whole steps away from E), and it appears nowhere else in the song. It’s not dissonant or discordant, but it’s certainly unexpected. It gives the song’s pivotal moment (and word) a point on which to pivot, a turning point that stops everything, if only for a second, on a dime. It also makes “Blue,” like “Nothing Left to Borrow,” “I’d Run Away,” and a handful of other songs on Tomorrow the Green Grass, a thing of beauty.

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