A week ago Marte Eberson was playing piano for the celebrated Ane Brun on Norwegian TV, in particular the Cyndi Lauper song ‘True Colours’, which Ane Brun recorded on her excellent new album of covers, ‘Portrayals’.
In a way Marte reveals her own true colours here. What do I mean by that?
She’s admitted herself that there is quite a lot of darkness in her writing. It was true with her previous solo album (another is due shortly, more on that later), with the band Löv, and with her last single, the ominously titled ‘Blood on my fingers’. Even though she didn’t have primary responsibility for the song writing for Highasakite you get the feeling some of that band’s disconcerting content wormed its way into her psyche where it found a warm welcome.
But ‘White Birds’ is different. White birds are usually doves of peace although they can be pigeons of course but we won’t go there. As I read it the song is a contrast between the white of peace, love and stability versus the red (lights and flags) of conflict, hate and volatility. (Or with Black Swans, if you prefer).
But Marte doesn’t portray herself as a white bird; rather, they are her saviours in this particular conflict within a dysfunctional relationship. A white knight perhaps, rather than a bird, and which might come in the form of A N Other, or even a Conversion on the Road to Drammen by the oppressor. All is not necessarily lost.
So essentially the song is about hope, which is within everyone’s grasp even if it has the annoying habit of slipping through the fingers, and the ability within everyone to find the courage to take flight and flee the rancid nest when there is no other option.
The best way I can suggest you enjoy it is to play another song which stands diametrically opposed to this one – first – and then listen to ‘White Birds’, which is its antidote.
That song is Fiona Apple’s ‘Red, Red, Red’, yet another gorgeous masterpiece by the undisputed World Champion of Lyricism, but which is so minor key and dispiriting chord-ridden, hopeless, and depressing that it defies any psychoanalytical examination. “All I can see is red, red, red, red, red now; what am I gonna do?”
But make sure you listen to them in the right order. Then you’re guaranteed to go off to work with a smile!
And of course it helps when you have the kindness and support of the family around you as Marte acknowledges in her notes to the song. (As I hinted in the review of ‘Blood on my fingers’ I suspect she might be chronicling real life events rather than merely song writing).
Musically, it’s the catchiest song she’s come up with since the first one, ‘This will blow’. I was particularly taken with the A-ha style opening and powerful bass line while the hook is one that will stick in the memory.
I mentioned an album earlier. I don’t know what it is called and since this is the fifth single from it, it’s probably halfway to being released! I did see a social media post that suggests the first test pressings of a vinyl edition have been produced, so not long to wait now?
A lady who is probably better known these days for more ‘serious’ music (by which I mainly mean jazz-rock but I also remember the almost classical ‘Korona Toccata’ she wrote during the early days of the pandemic which was ridiculously impressive) is well on her way to becoming a pop star.
She just needs to keep in touch with those white birds.
This review introduces for the first time an occasional new feature, ‘Viv says’, which is a brief ‘second opinion’ on the song from Northern England-based chorister, violinist and classical music aficionada Vivien B. A little bit like the way female classical musicians and voice coaches ‘react’ to pop and rock videos on YouTube!
So here we go with the first of
The insistent 4/4 rhythm and “boppy” tempo together with the catchy melody and hook undeniably create a “retro pop song” vibe. But the upbeat tempo and mood is confounded by the plaintive lyrics which had me thinking “this really should not work”. Yet somehow it does, in a way that puts me in mind of a similar feat pulled off by Bruce Springsteen with his ‘Everybody has a hungry heart’.
Marte says she hopes people will feel a sense of freedom and independence generated by the song. I get that, but I also feel that with her final refrain “I’ll be strong if you’d just let me” she plants a seed of doubt – a hint that she is still in thrall to her erstwhile lover and leaves us with the suspicion that the story is not yet complete.
With a few hearings the melody does begin to lodge in the brain but Marte wasn’t able quite to do that on the first one, which can be critical in the business. However, I do suspect she will do exactly that in the ‘sequel’!!
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Photo: Birthe Magnussen
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