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I need to tell you guys something. I don’t know that I’ve written about it before and I know I haven’t talked about it with anyone in quite some time, but I used to sing. Like, a lot. We’re talking musical theater, pop punk bands, and everything between. I even was in show choir for three years in high school, two of which we won a national competition. I could read music. I understand how harmonies work and the technical aspects of forming chords on pianos and guitars. I even wanted to study it in college and make it a profession, but ultimately decided I wouldn’t be able to live the lifestyle I wanted if I were a musician so I took a different path.
Why am I bringing this up? Well it’s important for me to establish my credibility so that you know that I know what I’m talking about when I say that ‘Everywhere’ by Michelle Branch is the perfect song. Not the best song, not a great song, no. It’s the perfect song.
That’s right. Let me take you back in time. The date is July 17th, 2001. Michelle Branch, a down on her luck singer/songwriter, released her second album titled The Spirit Room at a mere 17 years old. Although, how down on your luck can you be when you’re 17? Doesn’t matter, because The Spirit Room went double platinum. At the time, though, how could she have known the future she had ahead of her? She was just sitting in her room staring into a poster of Alanis Morissette and listening to Jagged Little Pill while writing songs on her acoustic guitar (probably).
The first track on the album, ‘Everywhere,’ blew fans and critics out of the water, winning the Viewer’s Choice Award at the 2002 MTV VMAs and a featured spot in American Pie 2, which is frankly the highest honor you need to receive in my opinion. It has since gone on to be belted at the top of peoples lungs in bars, at parties, and sometimes when your Spotify playlist ends and it’s one of the next similar songs.
But enough about the song’s acclaim and history. Let’s really get down to brass tacks here. Why is ‘Everywhere’ the perfect song? Because of its imperfections.
Think about it. The song starts out with an acoustic guitar riff played at a fast tempo, a catchy pattern that hits your ears and forces you to nod along. You’re expecting some sort of acoustic drums to kick in, perhaps a bongo or maybe a hand clap. Is that what you get? No chance. Full on electronic drum set. It doesn’t match, but the dissonance between the two types of sounds is seemingly out of the ordinary and forces you to listen on until the full band comes in and kicks everything up a notch.
Then we get to the chorus. Contrary to my previous point, if you were to change anything about this chorus, it would absolutely suck. It’s upbeat. Michelle’s voice dances from staccato to legato (think dots to dashes) across the beautiful voices of back up singers acting as instruments. Seriously. Their voices are building chords and using the bass and rhythm guitars as the root. The whole thing makes me want to do that thing where you throw the bottoms of your jean jacket backwards and dance-spin in circles around your messy teenage room.
Lyrically, I’ll admit, not her best work. Rhyming “there” with “there” is sloppy, plain and simple. But, you know what? When I listen to this song, I can tell she’s pouring all of her emotion out onto the page. Michelle Branch’s voice is a powerful tool that she uses to express the feelings of new love. The happiness and the hopelessness, the fun times together and the tired times apart. That is until the tragic end when she asks, “Do you see me?” and we realize that she may have been stalking this dude the whole time.
At this point in the column, I think it’s important to acknowledge the fact that it would be very easy to make a similar argument for ‘Pieces of Me’ by Ashlee Simpson, or ‘Unwritten’ by Natasha Bedingfield, or literally any song by Alanis Morissette. There are also people out there who will argue that the perfect song was written by Kanye West or Queen or The Beatles. It’s a fair argument. Alanis paved the way for our Simpsons and Branches, and Kanye, Queen, and The Beatles are regarded as some of the best artists of all time.
But let me leave you with this. The next time you’re out on the patio, or getting ready to go out, or even on your commute, turn on ‘Everywhere.’ Something will happen to you. You’ll feel it start in your fingertips and slowly make its way to your shoulders. Before you know it, your head is bouncing up and down with the beat. You’ll look to your left and to your right and realize that all of your stress, all of your nerves, they’re all gone. You’re at one with your surroundings. You feel a connection with the person across the bus and the guy walking his dog and even the pigeon you almost kicked.
For a lack of a better term, you’ll be…everywhere. .