Have you ever watched a flower bloom? The anticipation every day that today might be the day it opens up to show its true colors, leaves us in a state of hope. We have seen flowers in full bloom before so we understand the reward for waiting, and more often than not we are left in awe of their beauty. Flowers can be tricky though, some require constant care and a perfect climate so we spend a lot of time tending to them, nurturing them so they may be seen by the world in all of their glory. Humans can act the same way. A lot of us can’t, won’t or don’t show our true colors until we are with those who have supported us, or helped us get comfortable enough to reach that stage. Seeing the beauty of another person put that much trust in you, to give you a platform to blossom, can be the most intense, passionate and rewarding experience we can have. Just like a flow, however, the bloom fades, and the life cycle repeats itself, and you must start from the ground up. This constant fluctuation can be demanding and rigorous. We may want to abandon hope and give up, but we have experienced the allure, we know what can become of a tiny little seed.
In his song Cold Little Heart, Michael Kiwanuka has taken this cycle and set it to music, in lyrics of course as he talks about his bleeding cold little heart, but also through his arrangement. The song runs nearly ten minutes long, a parallel to length of time this emotional cycle can take, but the instruments that come and go, the build of anticipation brought in by the blissful choir and soaring strings and the soulful vocals of a man who has been torn apart are more than enough to keep you listening. The song starts in a state of uncertainty, fluttering strings coupled with some sporadic “ah’s” and guitar teasers all give signs for what is to come. All of these parts start to fit together as the rhythm sections fills in defining a pattern of which to follow. The instruments start to swirl together and all of the sudden there is a blissful mix that seemingly only wants to reach higher, but right as we get there we are brought back down where a distorted guitar take precedence, whose tone suggests a darker side that wants to change as the notes get played in a higher octave. The rise and fall of these sections serve its musical purpose, to keep the listener actively engaged by bringing in new instruments and melodies along with the tension and release as each section passes, and its symbolic reference to the life, as our physical and emotional lives tend to take on the same characteristics.
The vocals are powerful yet tender. You can feel the pain and frustration as the singer has been through this before, but is torn whether he should try one more time. This is a man who knows what he is, he has failed many times in the past and thinks why this time would be any different. The amount of pressure he puts on himself to change seems to wear on him the most, the self-consciousness can be the hardest to bear as you watch those who have given you their lives start to fade away. But he can’t give up hope, and he won’t as the in his last words are “But thinking about where I’ve been ain’t helping me start.” The song starts to swirl as it has done many time already, but suddenly stops as he stops thinking, for he does not know where this road may lead.
You can learn more about Michael Kiwanuka here:
About the curator - Nick Malpezzi
Nick Malpezzi is a lover of nature, cats, beer, and music. When he’s not at his day job he is recording artists, working on films, writing music, taking pictures and enjoying life. He believes complexity is derived from simplicity, which is seen in his musical tastes and original productions.