Song of the Day #2,381: ‘Late Bloomer’ – Jenny Lewis


Best Songs of 2014 – #1
‘Late Bloomer’ – Jenny Lewis

I knew Jenny Lewis’ ‘Late Bloomer’ was the best song of 2014 before I’d even finished listening to it the first time.

It’s rare that I “get” a song after just one listen (let alone half of one) but this elegant snapshot of a young woman’s coming of age struck a nerve instantly.

Based on a trip Lewis herself took to Paris in her teens, during which she met a woman seeking out songwriter Lou Barlow, ‘Late Bloomer’ is a 5-minute narrative that feels like it could easily be adapted into a short story or an indie film.

The music and production are rich as custard, like every other song on the album (my second favorite of the year). And Lewis’ vocals are just gorgeous. This album is career-best work for her, start to finish, and ‘Late Bloomer’ is her finest moment on record to date.

When I turned 16 I was furious and restless
Got a Chelsea girl haircut and a plane ticket to Paris
I stayed there with Pansy, he had a studio in the seventh
Lost his lover to a sickness, I slept beside him in his bed
That’s when I met Nancy, she was smoking on a gypsy
She had a ring in her nose and her eyes were changing like mood stones
She said “Open up late bloomer, it will make you smile
I can see that fire burning, in you little child.”

Nancy came from Boston, she got in trouble very often
Cause her parents had forgotten her, she escaped over the pond
She was searching for the writer of a song that made her shiver
She listened over and over on her Walkman cassette
And she said “Come with me late bloomer, for a little while
I wanna see that fire burning, in you little child.”

How could I resist her, I had longed for a big sister
And I wanted to kiss her, but I hadn’t the nerve
We found the writer, he was just some kid from Boston
I was jealous as I watched him talking to her
But man was I astonished, he didn’t look like no Adonis
But as Nancy had promised, he was heavy as lead
And he said “Come with us late bloomer, for a little while
We wanna feel that fire burning, in you little child.”

Forgive me my candor, but I just had to have her
And at the time I didn’t mind sharing with him
We rode in silence, all the way back to the seventh
And I promised I’d write her but I never did
And she said “Au revoir, late bloomer, for a little while
You gotta keep the fire burning, in you little child.”


12 thoughts on “Song of the Day #2,381: ‘Late Bloomer’ – Jenny Lewis

  1. Dana says:

    This is a perfectly lovely song, though it feels a bit too MOR vanilla to grab my attention as a great song Anyway, at some point I’ll try to compile my own list of best songs of 2014.

    I do think your list was a bit more inclusive and better balanced by the cajoled move to review the Billboard lists through the year. It is still clear, however, that.your list remains album oriented and the selections benefitted from repeat listening through that medium. Even your Billboard selections, with maybe one or two exceptions, were elevated because your discovery of the song led you to buy the album, which, in turn, allowed for repeat listening. I can’t help but think, for example, that, had you heard “Uptown Funk” by Mars or “Don’t” or “Thinking out Loud” by Sheeran more than once or twice, either because you heard them repeatedly on the radio or because you bought the album, those songs would have penetrated your list.

    In the end, though, we are who we are, we listen how we listen and that reflects our preferences. It’s what makes for such wonderful variation in the myriad “best of” lists in our world.

  2. Andrea Katz says:

    Enjoyed the lyrics but the melody was boring to me.

  3. Clay says:

    Trust me, Dana, I’ve heard Ed Sheeran plenty of times. Fiona plays those songs on repeat. I just don’t like them enough to make the list, which goes to your last point — we like what we like.

    I think the Billboard exercise (which I’ll continue this year) helped expose me to a lot of really shitty songs but also a few gems. I’m guessing I still would have heard and loved ‘Chandelier’ and ‘Problem’ without the aid of Billboard, but who knows.

    I disagree with your album theory, because, to take the two most prominent examples, buying the Hozier and Vance Joy albums did nothing to boost the profile of ‘Take Me to Church’ or ‘Riptide.’ In fact, I was mostly let down by those albums and continued listening to the singles as I would have if I’d never gotten the albums in the first place.

  4. Dana says:

    I am truly baffled by your failure to appreciate Sheeran. He’s a major talent.

    But you not warming to Sheeran after repeat listening doesn’t actually work against my observation. It actually supports it. The fact is that sometimes repeat listening moves the needle on a song higher, but can also move the needle lower. However, failure to hear a song more than once, even a song that makes an initially good impression, will lead you to sublimate that song over others to which you have returned more often.

    Just look back at your reviews on countless songs and albums, including several featured on this year end list. You often describe your now favorites as being “growers.” The initial listen may have been good, but may not have necessarily blown you away, but there was enough there to give it a second, third and more listens.

    I would argue that “grower” aspect holds true in pop radio music as well, but with some variation. Namely, the pop song is meant to hook you on first take and then grow on you with repeat listening. However, perhaps just as often, that hook grabbing you on first listen starts to wear thin after over saturation. Or, maybe even more commonly, there is an arc where your affection for the hit grows but then fades due to overplay. For me, “Uptown Funk” made an immediate impact and, as I recall, your initial response was positive also. Then, for me, with each play on the radio, the song grabbed me more. Now, I suppose there could be a point that I will hear “Funk” so much that it will slide down the curve, though it hasn’t happened yet.

    You though insulate yourself from this entire process because of the way you listen to music. You will apparently never have the experience of a good pop hit growing on you through repeated play (unless you are the one hitting play repeatedly on the album or track you bought). And you also will never grow tired of a song through overplay since, presumably, you will play a favorite just enough to keep it enjoyable and no more.

    And so, as to the impact on your list, the radio pop “grower” may not make it through, particularly where it must compete with the songs that were “growers” for you because you bought the song and controlled their growth.

  5. Clay says:

    What I don’t get about your scenario is that it seems you (and everybody else who isn’t me, I guess) somehow find yourself forced to listen to songs over and over again whether you want to or not. Don’t you ever change the channel??

    Even on the rare occasions I listen to the radio, I move off of songs I don’t want to hear. Even growers need to have enough going on to make me want to stick with them.

    • Dana says:

      Well, Stranger to That Most Popular and Common Communication Medium Over the Past Century That is Radio, the vast majority of humans on planet Earth tune into what are called “favorite” radio stations and those stations will repeat songs that are deemed “popular” or “hits” to their audience. We the listeners will leave on a song or seek it out from other stations through something we call “channel surfing.”

      When, however, a song becomes oversaturated with air play for one’s personal taste, we tend to switch the channel, often exclaiming to those around us something like, “Oh no! Not this song again!” And if the next station we choose is either also playing the song or plays it shortly thereafter, sociologists reflect the common expressed sentiment exclaimed to be, “Oh good lord! Seriously? I mean it’s a good song and all, but enough already!”

      Then there are those who hear radio music at work, a mall, a car dealership, an office, an elevator, a fair, a club, a gym and so on, where the “growing” process as well as the oversaturation process may take hold without the aforementioned voluntary interaction with radio.

      • Clay says:

        I, too, hear songs playing in those places you describe, and often use Shazaam to figure out who it is when I’m intrigued enough.

        It seems like you’re trying to blame my listening habits for the fact that my list of favorite songs isn’t more like your own.

        I’ve heard ‘Uptown Funk’ enough times to know that it’s a catchy song but not one I seek out or consider one of the best of the year. Hearing it ten times more won’t change that. Similarly, I don’t think you repeatedly listening to the songs I chose by Miranda Lambert, Lana Del Rey, Jenny Lewis, U2 and others would make you suddenly want them on your own list.

  6. Amy says:

    I want to read Fiona’s likely Ed Sheeran heavy list! 🙂

  7. Clay says:

    Fiona’s list would be half Ed Sheeran and half Miranda Lambert. 🙂

  8. Dana says:

    You “too hear songs playing in those places.” Lol! I picture you out there like Spock with a tricorder trying to understand and interpret the alien planet’s music.

    You see, for the rest of us humans, that exposure isn’t happenstance. We actually seek out those places and those mediums to hear music. We, for example, will play the radio in our car, at the office, etc. voluntarily., because that is how songs grow on us.

    Anyway, I say all this not to “blame” as to why our lists are not the same, but rather to analyze how your means of exposure and growth influence your list. I don’t see why that observation is viewed as critical or untrue. Do you really think your list would be the same if your primary access to music came from radio rather than purchase of singles and albums? I have no doubt my list would change if I didn’t listen to radio and instead listened to music the way you do.

  9. Clay says:

    You seek out elevators, fairs and car dealerships in order to hear music? 🙂

    Yes, my list would be different if my primary access to music came from the radio. It would be far worse! That’s like saying what if your top ten movie list was restricted only to movies that had topped the box office.

    Sorry, Chef, Whiplash and Boyhood. At least a few good ones like The LEGO Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy will slip in, but you also get a whole lot of The Hobbit, Transformers and Godzilla.

    • Dana says:

      I don’t think your access would need to be “primary” to influence your list. Indeed, I don’t primarily access music through radio either. I would not conclude, however, as you seem to do, that your list would be worse based on radio exposure. The definition of radio itself has expanded significantly in the past twenty years so as to include satellite and pandora and iTunes Radio with thousands of stations over a variety of genre.

      Your movie analogy may be apt where “radio” is the equivalent of seeing only hit or studio pushed movies. I submit, however, that the more appropriate analogy may be where you reject seeing films in any theaters at all and instead see them only at home through DVDs or streaming and, in choosing your films, you are also somewhat oblivious as to whether the movie was released onto the big screen at all.

      Again, though, the music-movie comparison ultimately breaks down because of the cental point to this particular discussion. Songs are meant to be heard repeatedly. They are meant to grow or not grow on you and that growth is what ultimately translates to a favorites list. While that can at times hold true in film, you might list Whiplash or Selma as a top film without having seen it more than once or frankly even wanting to see it more than once. You would never, however, list a song as a favorite and say…”glad I heard that. It was great and a favorite, but I never want to hear that tune again!”

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