Thursday, September 22, 2016

J Is For...

My personal alphabet of artists, from A to Z. 

Joe Jackson / "So You Say"

Just to prove that I do listen to new releases -- a devastating track from my longtime musical love Joe Jackson's 2015 album Fast Forward. Which, y'know, if you don't have, you should. Because this guy is one of those who just keep on getting better and better.

I saw Joe at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem this past July. I was transported: every song he sang was gold.

First of all -- a tango!  Who does tangoes anymore? But it's a brilliant choice, because the tautly circumscribed sexuality of the tango is just what this song is about.

We Joe-ites know this territory well, from tracks like "Blue Flame" and "Not Here, Not Now." Joe Jackson excels at scenarios where love is NOT easy, where inhibitions cramp desire. "So you say," he begins, launching us into the middle of a conversation that's probably been torturously waging for a while. "And I agree," he replies, but then adds -- zing! -- "You're a prize, but / Not for me." I love the confidential curl of that next melodic phrase: "There'll be no more lies now / So you say."

Oh, he'll take the passive aggressive route: "I'm a fool / You're a sage / Yes, I'll try to / Act my age." (Cue the Joe-ite footnote to "Awkward Age.")

But because this is Joe Jackson, the bridge unleashes a higher-register burst of emotion: "And I thought I knew what went on in my heart / Till you taught me I would never have been smart / Enough to leave you." Oh, that crafty turn at the end of the phrase.

Because this guy has reached his limit. "Tell me once / Not again / Take a breath and / Count to ten / Time to say goodbye now / So you say." WAIT! Wha-?

So who's doing the leaving?

And there's our reality check: How often do lovers get so inside their own heads, they think they're driving the course of the affair? When in fact...

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