Song of the Day #1,514: ‘Easy Way Out’ – Elliott Smith

A couple of weeks ago, I singled Aimee Mann out as the poster child for melancholy music. Well, she ain’t got nothing on Elliott Smith.

At least Mann has a dry sense of humor (hell, she even had a cameo in The Big Lebowski). Smith, on the other hand, writes music just perfect for wrist-slitting.

I mean that quite literally — Wes Anderson chose the Elliott Smith song ‘Needle in the Hay’ for a scene depicting an attempted suicide in The Royal Tenenbaums. Top that, poseurs!

You could argue that Smith did in fact top that when he took his own life in 2003. Anybody who thought all of his depressing songs were play-acting learned differently that sad afternoon.

I find it incredibly poignant that the loneliness and depression Smith felt and poured into his music wound up helping so many people who found comfort in his songs, yet he never found that same solace himself.

Let’s add Smith to my musical genome chart as a strong ‘Melancholy’ artist. Though he expanded his sound to include some pop elements on later albums, he doesn’t qualify as ‘Pure Pop.’ And he’s a guitar virtuoso, not a ‘Piano Man.’ No country or folk influences, either. So another one-category act, but an extraordinary one.

You’ll take advantage ’til you think you’re being used
‘Cause without an enemy your anger gets confused
I got stuck on the side you know I never chose
But it’s all about taking the easy way out for you I suppose

There’s no escape for you except in someone else
Although you’ve already disappeared within yourself
The invisible man who’s always changing clothes
It’s all about taking the easy way out for you I suppose

While I watch you making mistakes
I wish you luck, I really do
With the problem, with the puzzle
Whatever’s left of you

I heard you found another audience to bore
A creative thinker who imagined you were more
A new body for you to push around and pose
It’s all about taking the easy way out for you I suppose
It’s all about taking the easy way out for you I suppose

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,514: ‘Easy Way Out’ – Elliott Smith

  1. Amy says:

    I’m surprised to see him make the cut of your top artists for consideration. I’m also surprised that you’re not allowing a “Guitar Man/Woman” section of your “Piano Man” category. Seems if an artist is known for an instrument, that should qualify, regardless of which instrument he chooses. That said, nobody is going to argue with your melancholy label on this one.

  2. Clay says:

    I included piano and not guitar because I love the sound of the piano in a way that doesn’t apply to the guitar. I adore a Ben Folds piano solo but get bored 10 seconds into an Eric Clapton guitar solo.

  3. Dana says:

    I agree that guitar as a category seems too broad in a way piano isn’t, being almost as expansive as a singer/songwriter or rock category.

    While I questioned your strained application of “meloncholy” for some artists who simply have a broad enough catalog to include some downer tunes, the category seems to be custom made for Smith and Mann. And you seem to be able to take a heavier dose of melancholy than me, as a little of either of these artists (and you could add Apple to that mix) goes a long way. But, for you, it is clearly a big draw.

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