Today's entry is the fault of Mr. Mark Saleski, who sent me an MP3 of this song one day when I was daydreaming on a boring day in my cubicle in a windowless room at work.
I'd heard of Shelby Lynne and was familiar of the widespread acclaim her I Am Shelby Lynne record got upon its 2000 release. I never checked it out because I assumed it was country and I don't like country music. Yeah, I know, I'm an idiot. I still don't like country music, but that's not really the point. The point is I missed out on this great record for eight years. I suppose I can take some comfort in the fact I probably wouldn't have known what to do with this music at the time but I do hate that I got to the party so late. Since buying the record on my own – see, RIAA, 'file-sharing' is not the end of the music-buying public – I've listened to it like a man trying to make up for lost time, and “Lookin' Up” is one of the main reasons.
As I listened to this song for the first time in a couple months, I was struck again by the opening lines of the song:
“Smokin' and thinkin' of things to do since you're gone
Sittin' lonely can't even get stoned”
I've sang (badly) those lines with her any number of times and I always had a bit of an embarrassed laugh when I sang that second line. I've never done a drug in my life. I don't know what it feels like to get stoned, but I think I get it on some sort of quasi-intellectual level. Hell, I've watched TV! Still, that line sort of pulled me out of the song despite the incredible vocal. That moment would quickly pass as Lynne continued. Tonight, I think I understand that line and no, wiseass, I'm not stoned.
When you take those two lines together, what we see is that loneliness and heartache are so overwhelming no substance can overcome it. In that sense, I think I understand. We all have our “drug” of choice, whether it's a drug or something else. We all have our ways of finding pleasure and avoiding pain. We all medicate ourselves and try to inoculate ourselves against the pain that living brings (thanks, Bruce!). Sometimes, life hurts us in a way that it feels like nothing can touch it. Even if we're lucid enough to know better, in those dark, dark moments it feels like nothing is ever going to feel okay again.
In those moments of agony it's easy to get pretty jaded and fatalistic, which brings us to the song's refrain: “I'm lookin' up for the next thing that brings me down.” Lynne has moved past the inevitable point when this hurt might ease, preparing herself for the other shoe to drop on her happiness, bringing her back to a time when she'll be sitting in a chair, talking to herself “taking a breath of a feeling that once lived in this house.” The landscape of pop music is forever grayed by the smog of songs about love's loss. Very few of them paint that portrait better than “Lookin' Up.”