Daily Song Study

Heather Maloney – Dirt and Stardust

In songs on March 18, 2015 at 10:13 am

(editor’s note: Okay, so it won’t be daily, but I do miss sharing stuff that’s floating through my headphones, so here we go again…)

In explaining newer music to people with more classic tastes, one of the things that’s hard to quantify with any precision is the immense lyrical shift that has developed in recent decades among the striving class of songwriter I gravitate towards. On the extremely young end of the spectrum we have Heather Maloney:

I chose this tune not only because it’s good, but also because it updates and augments a very traditional theme, that of the rambler. The fact that it’s being sung by a woman is helpful in freshening up that narrative, but lines like “please make my castle out of sand” or “my body will not last longer than a metal band” provide a casual and less bombastic delivery of the author’s intentions.

In addition, the tail end of the chorus overturns the standard pose of the rambler as some immortal orphan with no connection to family or friends, noting that “I am made of dirt and stardust, my daddy’s dreams, my mother’s heart,” concluding at last with “please don’t put silk flowers on my grave,” a fitting acknowledgement of life’s fleeting nature.

Songwriters like Maloney thwart the conventional wisdom that all anyone writes anymore is baby baby, when of course pop music has always been rife with crummy lyrics. Look deeper, and you will find people doing their damnedest to speak their minds with a pitch-perfect mix of clarity and artfulness. Whether the mass media pays attention is another matter entirely.


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