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Music to Atone To
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“You’re feeling nervous, aren’t you boy? / With your quiet voice and impeccable style…” Americana singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile instantly gets down to business on “The Joke,” an anthem of atonement for the bullied, marginalized, and under-represented souls. The crown jewel of her Grammy-nominated album By the Way, I Forgive You, Carlile takes it upon herself to uplift where others are so quick to tear down.  She’s the champion for the champion-less on one of the most moving records of 2018. 

Continuing the aforementioned excerpt from the first verse, Carlile advises the ‘nervous boy’, “Don’t ever let them steal your joy / And your gentle ways, to keep ‘em from running wild.”  She masterfully continues to illustrate the hurt and pain that the nameless boy experiences.  She does similar justice for a nameless, ‘discouraged girl’ on the second verse, lamenting the fact that “It’s your brother’s world for a while longer.” Despite being discouraged, Carlile places emphasis on strength despite pain:

“I saw your eyes behind your hair
And you’re looking tired, but you don’t look scared.”

With the magnificent lyricism of the verses, the centerpiece comes by way of the powerful chorus, which denounces the bullies, haters, and all-around horrible people.  This is the battle cry of Carlile, backed by gorgeous, inspired production including strings, rhythmic acoustic guitar, and pummeling drums.  Her sermon:

“Let ‘em laugh while they can
Let ‘em spin, let ‘em scatter in the wind
I have been to the movies, I’ve seen how it ends
And the joke’s on them.”

Perhaps the best way to describe the atonement that Carlile sings about is a famous Biblical passage, Matthew 20:16 – “So the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” From Carlile’s perspective, “the last” will definitely get their chance to shine. 

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About The Curator - Brent Faulkner

Brent Faulkner - Music to Curator

Slightly eccentric with interests that seem to know no ends, restless ‘Renaissance Man’ is the best way to characterize Brent Faulkner, a native of Kentucky.  A certified music educator, multi-instrumentalist, and composer known for his incredibly sharp ear, he lives and breathes music of a variety of styles.  In addition to passion for educating, performing, and writing music, he’s equally passionate blogging and writing about it, managing his own site, The Musical Hype ( When he’s not intensely analyzing music, you can find him reading or watching a movie, reality television or some sporting event.