It's Pretty OK
Solving the paradoxes of our time since 2016

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A Pretty OK Song: "Beyond" - Leon Bridges

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It's been a minute since I last spoke to you.

One of the things I've learned in my year of unemployment is that time moves quite fast. The routine of day-to-day life distorts your perception of time, and it gets easier and easier to even forget what day it is. Hell, my last post went up about a month and a half ago.

So what snapped me out of my habit of avoiding reality? Well, a loved one visiting me, a dash of courage, and one bold decision. But first, let's talk about Leon Bridges's "Beyond."

Bridges is a soul artist from Fort Worth, Texas, who burst onto the scene with 2015's Coming Home. (If you've heard him before, you've probably heard the title track or "River.") He's currently touring behind his new album Good Thing, and if you have a chance, you should check him out. He's a great performer with a velvety-smooth voice and a decidedly '60s aesthetic (and set of dance moves).

Good Thing dropped in May, but I didn't hear "Beyond" until about a month ago. But that's alright, because I'm making up for lost timeā€”it's been a long time since I've been able to listen to one song on repeat for an hour.

I actually wish I could just loop the first 15 seconds of the track over and over again. The combination of deep bass, subtle percussion, jangling tambourine, guitar, and jazzy synths is magic. But doing that would rob me of the 16th second, the incredible moment when Leon's vocals hit my ears.

The first word that came to my mind was wholesome. When I heard his voice in those first bars, it reminded me of a conversation with a close friend: intimate, inviting, and most of all, genuine. Bridges's voice is sublimely human, ranging from warm lows to crackling highs. When he hits the she in the line "She shines me up like gold on my arm" on the upbeat instead of the downbeat, it's an unexpected moment that makes the rhythm infectious.

As soon as the chorus hits, I could listen over and over again, just like the first 15 seconds. The instrumentation is almost the same, but Bridges's vocals take on a subtle echo that gives them depth. Then the rhythm shifts, and a beautiful, happy key change takes over.

***

How does this all connect to what's going on in my life?

About a year ago, I was facing a great deal of uncertainty in my life. I was quitting my first full-time job and getting ready to explore what life had to offer me, and I found an anchor in Nujabes's "Luv (Sic) Part 3." It's been an up-and-down year that has often reminded me that life is complicated no matter how much you prepare for it.

"Beyond" helped me through another similar moment this year. I was feeling unmoored, paralyzed by the sheer number of choices I could make to take my life in a new direction. Then my girlfriend Kelsey came to visit, and Bridges's message of taking risks for love finally clicked into place for me.

So I bought a one-way plane ticket to England to be with Kelsey and sort out the rest of my life from a new place. I'm excited, I'm anxious, I'm uncertain. I hope that this is the start of a long, wonderful chapter of my life. But I'll settle for knowing that when it counted, I was willing to take a big risk to follow my heart.

Until next time.

-Ian Wood