Song of the Day #711: ‘Give Judy My Notice’ – Ben Folds

After seeing Ben Folds in concert last year, my sister made a comment that I think sums him up pretty well. She said he’s split down the middle between a very sincere and sensitive soul on the one hand and an obnoxious frat boy on the other.

The former is responsible for such achingly profound songs as ‘Alice Childress,’ ‘Gracie,’ ‘Missing the War,’ and ‘Jesusland’ (among many many others). The latter plays to the drunk idiots with songs such as ‘Bitch Went Nuts,’ ‘Bitches Ain’t Shit,’ and ‘Errant Dog.’ He brings the same level of outstanding musicianship to all of the above, but you have to wonder why he’s reluctant to grow up. Or why he doesn’t trust his audience to grow up with him.

The Ben Folds I love is most definitely the sensitive guy, though I don’t mind a little of the smart-ass sprinkled in. The smart-ass gave us ‘Song For the Dumped’ and ‘One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces’ and ‘Uncle Walter,’ true classics in his catalog. There’s definitely a place for him.

But more often I find myself returning to Folds’ heartfelt songs, especially when they still manage to tap into that regular guy persona. Take this break-up song, ‘Give Judy My Notice.’ It’s a beautiful piece of music but it never comes close to being maudlin because the lyrics are so straight-forward. Look how neatly he captures the feeling of helplessness that comes with being used by your girlfriend in these lines: “‘Cause I come running when you want me here, and when you want me to I disappear.”

This version of the song appeared on the Speed Graphic EP. It was later released on the full-length album Songs For Silverman with extra instrumentation and production. I love both versions but I might lean a little more toward this stripped-down treatment.

Question: Is a song like this more effective because Folds can be a bit of a jackass? Would it lose some of its power coming from a big softie?

Could anyone be loved anymore
than I love you?
Does it hurt you too?

But Judy
I’ve been feeling small too long
I love you so
but something’s wrong

‘Cause I come running when you want me here
and when you want me to
I disappear
Give Judy my notice

I knew if I made it easy for you
you’d settle for me, yeah eventually

But Judy,
I can’t be myself anymore
It’s way too hard
bein’ loved by default

And I can’t do this any longer
The vacuum left is so much stronger

Judy you know I’m not mad anymore
at least most of the time
but it could take a while
and I’ve been living just to see you smile
every once in a while

Tears fall
but that don’t mean nothin’ at all
just cause I said it first
yeah that’s why it hurts ya

And Judy
I won’t be your bitch anymore
and follow you around
and hold the door

I’m not sorry if you’re not sorry
And you’re not sorry till I make you

Give Judy My Notice.
Give Judy My Notice

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #711: ‘Give Judy My Notice’ – Ben Folds

  1. Amy says:

    I’ll start by answering your question. I don’t think it makes a difference. When I hear Folds sing a song like this, I don’t hear a frat boy tapping into his sincere side. I hear a man singing about emotions he isn’t afraid to explore and share. There is no evidence of the guy who caters to the drunk immature members of his audience. So, no, I don’t think knowing such a persona exists makes me appreciate a song like this more than I otherwise would. Probably the contrary. I forgive the nonsense (which I rarely appreciate as much as you do) in order to get to Alice Childress, Brick, Philosophy, and, of course, Gracie. That is the Ben Folds I love. And he’s a pretty spectacular guy.

  2. Dana says:

    Well, I have a bit of a different take on this question than Amy. I have, in the past, found myself discounting certain softer songs by artists known for specializing in that type of music. I would, for example, give less credence to a song by Burt Bacherach because it seemed like both the music and lyrics were more formulaic for someone like him than it would be coming from someone like Elvis Costello.

    But then my bias is this regard was confronted head on when Costello actually teamed up with Bacharach and, in so doing, forced me to reexamine the quality of Bacherach’s writing both on their collaboration and as a whole. So in recent years, although I still probably have the same reflexive bias, I actually make a conscious effort to fight it and to give credit to the quality of a softer song even if it is being written by a songwriter who pumps out soft songs all the time.

    As for today’s SOTD, it is one of many great “soft” songs from Folds. I tend to like this version better than the one put on Silverman as well, but mostly because I generally appreciate stripped down version of songs in general.

    I also agree with Clay that Fold’s lighter songs have worked very well in the past, perhaps less so on his last album. I would like to see him move past the frat boy stage because the other side of him is ultimately much more rewarding to hear.

  3. Amy says:

    How many former frat boys have melted the moment they held their newborn child in their arms. And how many of those dads thank Ben Folds for helping them to voice that feeling. I found so many videos filmed and edited by fathers wanting to pay tribute to their own “Gracie girl”s 🙂

  4. Amy says:

    That video doesn’t seem to want to show up, but here’s a link to another one.

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