I’m a bit upset with Grace and this song, and if she read my review of “Just The Beginning”, which I’m sure she didn’t, then she’d be upset with me too. LOL

In my review I said that while City Song is excellent, it doesn’t attain the same level of sophistication as other odes to New York, in my mind specifically Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind”, a brilliant song on every level, and Alicia Keys’ “New York”, which is similarly breathtaking.

Grace, apparently, “hates” them. She has stated in both concerts and interviews that she wrote City Song as an antidote to the nostalgia-and-idealistic heavy-handedness of other New York City anthems, and she succeeded, but I feel she didn’t pay enough attention to those songs she so disdains. Alicia Keys’ “New York” doesn’t paint an idyllic picture of Gotham, but rather one of stark realism: a city filled with drug pushers, prostitutes, dreamers and schemers, a crucible of fire that tests the mettle of its inhabitants. It feeds off of a similar theme from “New York, New York” made most famous by Frank Sinatra: “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere”. Yes, it’s a wonderful town, but it’s also, at least in most songs dedicated to it, looked upon as a monolithic challenge to those who attempt to not only survive its specific trials, but overcome them and thrive.

City Song, as Grace says was her intention, casts all of those previous themes aside and turns the song itself into a metaphor for the city. In it the sounds of the city become the song, but only if you stop, truly listen, and appreciate the metropolis for what it is, for what you make of it.

It’s, as usual for Grace, unexpected, ingenious, and very much fits into her world view that can be summed up in a few rather deep tenets: “Take ownership of your faults and make them work for you if you can, but if they do not serve you, you must overcome them. Accept who you are, but don’t tolerate anything other than your best from yourself; you are worth what you make of yourself, and you are a constant work-in-progress. The world is a beautiful battlefield, and life is war; you may win many battles, but you cannot expect peace as a permanent state, for it must be fought for over and over again. Help yourself, but help others, reach out to the hands of those who need you, lift them up and by so doing you will rise as well.”

Let’s do this…

The lyrics in their entirety followed by the breakdown…

“Fresh-laid concrete
Melodies blowing
Don’t care where we’re going
But the day is wasting
Just keep moving
And take it all in

The rumble of voices are the bass to our song,
the horns are just on the beat honking along,
let’s be the harmony but no note is wrong
and let’s take the city and make it our song
Our song
Our song
Let’s take the city and make it our song

Pencil tapping
Feet speed walking
Cars just driving

Daydream gazing
Just keep moving
And take it all in

The rumble of voices are the bass to our song,
the horns are just on the beat honking along,
Let’s be the harmony but no note is wrong
and let’s take the city and make it our song
Our song
Our song
Let’s take the city and make it our song

Everything going on around you,
Just close your eyes and disconnect for a moment or two
And hear

The rumble of voices are the bass to our song,
The horns are just on the beat honking along,
We’ll be the harmony but no note is wrong,
let’s take the city and make it our song
Our song
Our song
Let’s take the city and make it our song”

The Breakdown
—————————-

“Fresh-laid concrete
Melodies blowing
Don’t care where we’re going
But the day is wasting
Just keep moving
And take it all in”

Grace’s official site states the first line is “Fresh like concrete”, but for the first time I’m going to actively disavow canon on this one and choose what I hear: “Fresh-laid concrete”. Regardless, the first line establishes a very specific and unexpected image, as Grace’s songs often do. She forces our mind’s eye to picture the look, and possibly smell, of freshly laid concrete, implying this is a city still growing, still evolving, bustling.

“Melodies blowing”, the first hint that all of the noises of the city comprise a melody blowing through the air.

“Don’t care where we’re going but the day is wasting”

City dwellers are always in a hurry, even if we’re not going anywhere in particular.

“Just keep moving
and take it all in”

Yes, Grace is saying, fine, go with the flow of traffic, keep up with those hurrying about you, but don’t tune out the world, take it all in; there’s more going on around you than you think, another one of her most recurring themes.

“The rumble of voices are the bass to our song,
the horns are just on the beat honking along,
Let’s be the harmony but no note is wrong
and let’s take the city and make it our song
Our song
Our song
Let’s take the city and make it our song”

The chorus crystallizes what had only been alluded to before: all of these noises that normally annoy you can be beautiful if you learn to appreciate them within a different context, just as you can the challenges in your life: make it your (our) song.

“Pencil tapping feet speed walking cars just driving
Daydream gazing
Just keep moving
And take it all in”

More imagery of impatient city life, but also becoming complacent in our rush, but that we should take it all in and not let life pass us by.

“The rumble of voices are the bass to our song,
the horns are just on the beat honking along,
Let’s be the harmony but no note is wrong
and let’s take the city and make it our song
Our song
Our song
Let’s take the city and make it our song”

The bridge is a lovely break from the business of the rest of the song which reflects the subject matter, we can suddenly hear children playing and laughing in the background and other more subtle sounds of the city…

“Everything going on around you,
Just close your eyes and disconnect for a moment or two
And hear”

Grace’s belting of “hear” brings us back to the city, but we’re now energized, and her growling of the next few words mirrors the lyrics, exciting us and encouraging us to join her in her appreciation of her surroundings: the city, and by metaphor, our busy, chaotic, lives.

“The rumble of voices are the bass to our song,
The horns are just on the beat honking along,
We’ll be the harmony but no note is wrong,
let’s take the city and make it
Our song
Our song
Our song
Let’s take the city and make it our song”

As Grace said, this isn’t a typical New York ballad. It’s far broader in scope, its points more subtle, but even deeper than those for which it preceded. Well done, Grace. Point taken.

This article was first posted on VanderVault’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Yfl9ID8F0g&lc=Ugxt4mZXg_yakQbUuOx4AaABAg