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?
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
Give Judy my notice
I knew if I made it easy for you
you’d settle for me, yeah eventually
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
but that don’t mean nothin’ at all
just cause I said it first
yeah that’s why it hurts ya
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