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“‘Give Me One Reason’ by Tracy Chapman is the Best Song of All Time. Prove Me Wrong.”

Ok, time’s up. Looks like the verdict is in: and why wouldn’t the greatest song of all time come from Cleveland, the birthplace of Bone Thugs and Filter?

Chapman came close to this level of perfection on “Fast Car,” which builds to a promising but slightly disappointing chorus, and “Revolution,” which is a da** good song except that the phrasing scheme really pi**es me off (like I wish in the chorus she’d start the “whoa” midway through the third bar instead of the fourth), but for my money “Give Me One Reason” just has that easy, slow-burning swagger which is the type of thing that’s just impossible to learn and mimic. It’s PURE feel.

I mean just look at the format: the phrasing is 12-bar blues but it’s not in the blues scale, it’s in the major scale, a stunt pulled off excellently by The Shins’ “Gone for Good” as well. Instead of branching out into unorthodoxy, it settles in with this fat and sassy sneer in its own conventional skin, and what’s more, the exact emotion, the exact message she’s getting across, is something that’s really grown and world-weary, with nothing hopeful or contrived in stock.

Finally, and this is probably my favorite part about “Give Me One Reason” but it’s SO pure ’90s and pure slacker, with the “I’m too old to go chasing around / Wasting my precious energy”. With these lyrics preceded by “This youthful heart can love you”, then, we get that zeitgeist’s sort of embrace of nobleness’ ideal, like if 4 Non Blondes took their idealistic vision of the world and actually found it realized, but anyway, how hilariously lazy is that? She refuses to “go chasing around” to be with someone she wants? Most people would hike across Wyoming for that. And to top it off, in true ’90s form, “Give Me One Reason” is great for listening to in a café, with its midtempo deliberateness and chic, silvery and cool female vocal (to be honest I didn’t know Chapman was black from first hearing this song, which I guess is a testament to her universality). Did Chapman find happiness with this guy after all? Oddly, I think, part of the message in “Give Me One Reason” is that it doesn’t even matter in the end, ’cause da**, this alternative rock stuff really is that good. But then, this is coming from a guy with a Beavis & Butthead sticker on his CD booklet.

 

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