Song of the Day #64: ‘Jesusland’ – Ben Folds

Ben Folds is one of my very favorite artists. He’s another one I could feature in the Song of the Day spot every day for weeks without hitting a bad song.

His second album, Songs for Silverman, is his most mature and nuanced work yet, something that didn’t go over well with a lot of his fans. Now, I’m not sure what sort of Ben Folds fan you are if you don’t like that album, but I suppose you’re the sort who is drawn to jokey stuff like ‘Song for the Dumped’ and ‘Rockin’ the Suburbs’ and oblivious to such sublime work as ‘Alice Childress,’ ‘Missing the War’ and ‘The Luckiest.’

Sure, Ben is a cut-up, but he’s also a masterful chronicler of human frailty and insecurity. And he’s an expert storyteller… his songs are often glimpses into the lives of ordinary people, and he captures the small details that make those stories feel real.

I’m a little worried that on his next album, Way to Normal, he will react to the tepid response to Silverman and lean toward the immature. The two tracks I’ve heard are enjoyable enough, but pretty lightweight. I hope that’s not the case.

This song is a beautiful little tale about what a ressurected Jesus might make of modern-day suburbia.

Town to town
Broadcast to each house, they drop your name
But no one knows your face
Billboards quoting things you’d never say
You hang your head and pray for Jesusland

It’s taking a shot at the hypocrisy and self-righteousness of “holy” Americans, but it’s not bitter… it’s resigned and sad, and all the more powerful for it.

Here’s hoping Ben has more of this sort of thing in store.

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #64: ‘Jesusland’ – Ben Folds

  1. Amy says:

    Ben Folds in one of my iPod exclusive artists, which means I have no idea which songs belong to which albums. They all just show up in a big group of great songs, some of which I know and love more than others, many of which I don’t even know by name. This one falls into that category, though as I listen to it now it seems absurd that I didn’t know its name until now. The songs of his I consider my favorites are Alice Childress, Brick, Philosophy, Gracie…. not sure which of these fall into the light albums versus the masterful chronicling of human nature, but I know that I love them all. And Jesusland certainly belongs in their great company.

  2. Dana says:

    i, of course, also love Folds and love this song. And I’m glad you picked up on the thing about this song that works so well–that being the ability to point out hypocricy in the heartland while at the same time showing it a degree of reverence and respect. I think it is a product of Folds’ unique perspective of someone who has grown up in the bible belt and can see the multiple facets of that world. He is not someone who is looking at it from a New England elitist perch. He lived it, and now he continues to see it as he tours, even though he has since moved away.

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