Thursday, July 12, 2007

Jolene as performed by the White Stripes

A lot of songs are neutered by being overplayed and excessively familiar; whatever power the song originally had diluted to the point that we hardly even hear it any more. Still more songs suffer from the lack of 'cred' the performer in question.

Jolene is a very famous song indeed; I doubt many people of my generation can recall the first time they heard it, and yet almost everyone knows it well. It is also a Dolly Parton song, and not a great deal of blog posts like this one are written about Dolly Parton songs. This is one of the things that is great about this performance; the song is instantly recognisable even though this version is very different.

The other reason I love this performance is because Jack White's vocals express the sentiment of the song so much better than any other version I have ever heard. When I heard this I was reminded what the song is actually about; it is about desperate pleading, about happiness on a knife-edge. The protagonist puts all of her pride aside and wears her heart on her sleeve in a way that is almost cringe-worthy. Jack's voice sounds like he is on the verge of tears throughout, like he really is pleading with Jolene not to destroy his happiness on a whim. Does it get more heart-wrenching than that?

You could have your choice of men / But I could never love again / Hes the only one for me, Jolene / I had to have this talk with you / My happiness depends on you / And whatever you decide to do, Jolene...

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