Sunday, June 11, 2017

Hard: Hard to Concentrate

Red Hot Chili Peppers: Hard to Concentrate


There is the classic way to propose marriage. The man gets down on his knees in front of his love. He has already planned this moment, and he has the ring ready in his pocket. He gazes lovingly at the object of his adoration, and says the words, “will you marry me”. I suppose many couples did it that way, and I also suppose that many of those couples stayed together and are still very happy. But that was far from my experience. My wife and I had been dating for almost three years. We had been making baby steps toward the aisle, although I suppose we were somewhat in denial about our destination. We had long ago stopped splitting checks on our dates, and stopped worrying about whose turn it was to pay. We had each cleared the awkward hurdle of meeting each other’s parents. And then, one day, my wife to be got to feeling insecure about life to the point of tears, and I wound up proposing by way of comforting her. My words were something romantic like, “let’s make it official”. There followed a lengthy scene in which I had to convince her that I meant it. Hardly a textbook proposal, but we will be celebrating our 26th anniversary next month.

I mention all of this because Hard to Concentrate is a marriage proposal. It is not the classic scenario either, and the song also does not contain the words, “will you marry me”. But the lyric is classier than what I did, and there is no mistaking the singer’s intent. Like us, this couple may not have actually shopped for the ring until after the proposal was accepted. Nevertheless, this lyric makes me feel optimistic for the couple’s prospects. It invokes the realization that an I and a you have become a we. Going with the genders in the video, I hope she said yes, and I hope that they can look back fondly at this moment 26 years from now.

Musically, the song is very spare, in a good way. The drummer does little more than keep time, and the bass line is very simple and almost invisible. The rhythm guitar does most of the work here, with the lead guitar intensifying the feel of the song. It works beautifully, and nothing more is needed. The song has a quiet intensity that suits the lyric perfectly. A more recent example of this kind of song building is Ed Sheeran’s hit Shape of You. In both cases, the songwriter stopped when they had enough, with great results.

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