Song of the Day #1,204: ‘Smoke’ – Ben Folds Five

Once in awhile I’m pleasantly surprised by my wife falling in love with a song by one of my favorite artists. Normally our tastes overlap only sparingly and the music I listen to the most tends to fall outside of her circle of favorites.

Ben Folds is of course one of my very favorites and my wife is largely ambivalent toward him. However, she is a big fan of most of Ben Folds Five’s debut album (especially ‘Best Imitation of Myself‘ and ‘Video‘) and she recognized the brilliance of ‘Emaline‘ even before I did.

More recently she expressed an infatuation with the song ‘Smoke’ from BFF’s sophomore album, Whatever and Ever Amen. She insists on listening to it at least twice every time if turns up on our car’s random playlist.

This came as a bit of a surprise to me, as I’ve never given the song much thought. I enjoy it, but I’ve considered it overshadowed by the songs surrounding it on that great album.

But listening to it with new ears these past few months, I realize how very right she is. ‘Smoke’ is a gorgeous song, both musically and lyrically rich.

Closing out my week of metaphors, Folds describes a failing relationship as a book going up in flames… with all of the shared memories disintegrating into smoke. A powerful image and a powerful song. I appreciate the reintroduction.

Leaf by leaf and page by page
Throw this book away
All the sadness all the rage
Throw this book away

Rip out the binding and tear the glue
All of the grief we never even knew
We had it all along
Now it’s smoke

The things we’ve written in it
Never really happened
All the things we’ve written in it
Never really happened

All the people come and gone
Never really lived
All the people come have gone
No one to forgive

We will not write a new one
There will not be a new one
Another one, another one

Here’s an evening dark with shame
Throw it on the fire
Here’s the time I took the blame
Throw it on the fire

Here’s the time we didn’t speak
It seemed for years and years and
Here’s a secret
No one will ever know
The reasons for the tears
They are smoke

Where do all the secrets live
They travel in the air
You can smell them when they burn
They travel

Those who say the past is not dead
Can stop and smell the smoke
You keep saying the past is not dead
Well, stop and smell the smoke
you keep on saying the past is
Not even past and
You keep on saying
We are… smoke

5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,204: ‘Smoke’ – Ben Folds Five

  1. Dana says:

    I’ve always liked this song, but I find almost every song on BFF’s sophomore album to be wonderful. Perhaps it takes a bit of getting used to because of the stripped down slightly odd instrumentation (Folds strumming the piano strings and a very naked sounding drum). Of course, given the 3/4 time, typically found in your favorite “carnival” sounding songs, I’m a bit surprised this wasn’t an immediate favorite of yours.

    Anyway, great song, and great example of metaphor.

  2. pegclifton says:

    I agree, great example of metaphor.

  3. Alex says:

    You are welcome. And thank you for featuring one of my favorite songs. Although it’s about a relationship, I love how he’s burning up all the mistakes and regrets of his past and how that can translate to really any aspect of life.

  4. Charlotte says:

    thanks for sharing, I adore Ben Folds and this is definitely one of my favorite songs of his as well. You should check out his new retrospective album, tts really cool.. 3-discs and a ton of live and previously unreleased tracks. here’s a funny video of Ben talking about The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective

  5. Rob says:

    Here in 2020 I can affirm that “Well, stop and smell the smoke” as sung on West 54th is a top “intense song” moment. Here’s a Smoke “wine pairing” – try with Joni’s live “Black Crow” from the Shadows and Light concert. Might work, might go.

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