I don’t know what I was doing awake on the Saturday before Easter (April 12), at midnight, but whatever it was, I Shazam’d a song at 12:05 A.M. My best guess is that, per usual, I was watching a movie, or some television show and heard a snippet of a song that tickled my fancy. (In my life, Shazam is the greatest life hack to ever do it.) The song I Shazam’d, though, was Eryn Allen Kane’s song, “Fragile, ” from 2019’s a tree planted by water EP.
Eryn Allen Kane is an artist who I’ve heard of but whose music didn’t exactly hit me the way I was told it would. I was made aware of her Aviary Act I EP by several folks who told me to check her out because of her voice. I’m a voice guy; there’s a certain tone to the singing voices of most of my favorite female singers like Amel Larrieux and Phyllis Hyman. I understood why folks sent me in her direction, but I wasn’t compelled. None of this is to say that I don’t think her music was good, it just didn’t grab me. Also, I’m pointing this out to explain why I’m writing, today, about a song that came out in 2019, that I Shazam’d over a month ago in April. Like most art, where you are and what you’re doing determines how music will impact.
Last night, “Fragile,” hit me like a comet. And now, I’m different. “Fragile” is one of the most beautifullest songs I’ve ever heard. It is well-written. It is personal. The music perfectly matches the words. Her voice and the vocal arrangement on the song are so sympatico that I’m mad that I’m so late to discovering this song. I was pissed last night when I listened the first time. I was mad at people who told me about her not pressing me harder to keep listening. I was mad at myself. I was mad that it was midnight in May and I couldn’t blast this song from speakers loudly so that I could truly feel the magnitude of the song.
In case you cannot tell, I am in love with this song.
Here’s how I fell in love with a song at midnight in May.
For the past five weeks, ESPN has been running the biopic-like documentary on Michael Jordan, The Last Dance. You may have heard of it. This is only consequential because it means that for the past five weeks, I have not watched a single episode of HBO’s Insecure in real-time. Last night, around 11:30 P.M. I pulled Insecure up on the DVR and started to watch it and some song or another came on that I liked and as I was about to Shazam, I looked at my list of Shazam’d songs. There were several from Insecure, mostly because before the season started I binged the first 3 seasons in preparation. I can tell when I finished because the song that ended season 3—Victoria Monet’s “The Glow,” a remix of the Willie Hutch song from The Last Dragon soundtrack—is on my list. I have no idea what I watched after and can’t seem to figure it out.
Anyway, though I didn’t remember it, because I assumed “Fragile” was from the show (I hadn’t looked at the time stamp), I figured I’d probably like it—Insecure’s musical selections are amazeballs, shouts out to Raphael Saadiq—and hit play. Maybe it’s because I was sitting on my couch in the dark and the mood was right or something, her voice hit me differently than it had before. I know Eryn had some sort of vocal injury that impacted her singing voice, but I don’t know that I had such a vivid reminder of her voice before that but this time I had a reaction. I stopped watching Insecure and listened to the song over and over, and this was before listening to the words. I was entirely caught up in the sound of her voice against the instrumental.
Over the next two hours, I literally spent the entire time reading every article online I could about the song, watching the video, and reading the lyrics and being entirely enraptured by the relatability and depth of the songwriting. The song is about generational trauma being transferred from person to person, and in this case, from her grandmother to her mother to her and what that looks and feels like, and the hope to break free from them. When she starts out the song say, “My mother was a blind architect, her mother was too….designing huge walls no man could ever get through…” I stopped the song and was like, “Bruuuuuuuuuuh. Woooooooow.” The “blind architect” phrasing is some Frank Ocean, god-level phrasing. The second verse starts with “My mother taught me the way to operate a crane, carrying heavy loads with a smile through pouring rain…”
Listen, I’m not even a lyrics person like a lot of other people are. I typically listen for how a song makes me feel, musically and emotionally. But these words took me clean out. On the hook, she warns, “don’t you build it too tall, it may never fall,” and I wanted to hug her so badly. I was basically having a whole moment of empathy and amazement. I was so impressed with every part of this song that I got mad that it wasn’t all over the charts. If Adele wrote this song, it would have been a number one song for weeks.
While the song is obviously written for women, the very idea of becoming what you see and what you’re taught is one that I sit with, especially because I have children and as my wife reminded me, just yesterday, “more is caught than taught.” I want to make sure I don’t teach my kids how to function with traumas that aren’t their own. My parents did a wonderful job with me, but there are things that I realize and recognize about myself now that aren’t my fault, that require (and have required) unlearning over time in order to succeed (when I have) in relationships and especially with my children. I’d hate for my children to build up metaphorical walls because of me, especially when I can see the cracks and fragilities. It’s hard to be human, and we’re all a work in progress. “Fragile” is a stark reminder of that and for the past umpteen hours since hearing this song, it has been on repeat. I get the message and the packaging is beautiful.
I hope that the song achieved its purpose for Eryn. I can say, indisputably, this song hit me like a brick (no pun intended) and it, that simply, moved its way onto the list of songs that are both beautiful and that will be part of my life from here on out.
It is, simply, beautiful.