Once upon a time there was a Danish singer-songwriter called Gurli Octavia (Højbjerg Eriksen…or something like that). She wrote many heartfelt ballads and the odd banger, and won many fans.
Then she went on a rail trip around Europe and when she returned she had become Summer Fry.
Not so much a conversion on the Road to Damascus as one on the Train to Toulouse.
Summer Fry’s songs were different to those of Gurli’s. Nice, but different.
But then Summer Fry recorded a new song called ‘If I don’t drown first’ and – to everyone’s surprise – she sounded just like Gurli Octavia. It was as if they had become one.
And they all lived happily ever after.
Life isn’t usually that simple but effectively that is what has happened here.
Her new song, delivered in a modulated vocal style I haven’t heard before, is about “finding your way through a roaring sea of destructive emotions” which is pretty much what Gurli sang about on her debut album, ‘I could be blossoming instead’; one that was forged out of an unholy trinity of adverse personal circumstances.
If Summer Fry was setting herself up to be Denmark’s Queen of Sad Pop, this is without doubt the way to go about it, but I hesitate to use such terminology because such songs are typically about being unlucky in love.
This goes deeper. Way deeper.
The simple, unrelenting but memorable piano melody (the only instrument in use apart from a synth that can barely be heard) could pass as background music in a funeral home. It’s calm and peaceful, offered up as an antidote to the seething tide of emotions that must be cascading through her head.
I doubt that such emotions are of the here, today and right now, and if they were, frankly I’d be concerned. ‘If I don’t drown first’ is, I’m sure, a reprise of the emotions which prompted her to write the album, two years ago, as a form of catharsis.
But in this case the subject matter has shifted, to hang on the self-destructiveness of the (usually female) obsession with physical appearance; although the way I’m reading the runes it seems to apply as much to the male of the species these days. (And that’s where it ends; I’m not getting into gender fluidity here!)
Gurli/Summer is a poet at heart and really cuts to the chase with lines like,
“Hiding in hunger/I sharpen my teeth
I wanted to drop to/The weight of my bones
Counting every minute/And stone that I’ve lost
Jumping through fires/Hoping I won’t get burned
I will find happiness/If I don’t die first.”
(The use of a generic English speaking world measurement – a stone – is cute. It would equally have scanned with ‘kilo(s)’ but it wouldn’t sound right and it is a much bigger, suggestive measure, too).
And then, to ram home the self-defeating isolation that such conditions can inflict,
“Befriending my shadows/To feel less alone
Things quickly get out of hand/When I am on my own”
Will sufferers from such afflictions gain solacefrom listening to the song? Will they seek help through discourse? I believe so.
For the rest of us we can only marvel at her ability to encapsulate such powerful emotions in three minutes.
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