This week, we are moving on to review The Edge of America, off of the Big Thing album. The Edge of America is a relatively short song, at 2:37, which blends into Lake Shore Driving (another song for another review). The word is that originally The Edge of America was a longer piece of music at one point, but during the course of recording morphed into what is now Lake Shore Driving. Let’s look at how The Edge of America works as a song and fits into the vernacular of Big Thing.
I love the simplicity of the beginning of this song. Vocals and keyboard chords mark a particular poignant point on this album. While still very simple, the keyboards and vocals work together to make the moment intimate and special, which I really like. This continues through to the first chorus, where some percussion, bass, guitar, and stronger piano join in. One thing I really appreciate on this album as a whole is that when vocals are meant to be the highlight, the music allows – there’s no “struggle” to be heard. This has as much to do with engineering and production as it does writing – but it really shows the maturity of the band at this point in their career.
It is on songs like these, when just hearing the emotion in Simon’s voice nearly brings me to tears, that I am reminded of Duran Duran’s potential. When they are good, they are really that good. I love the way his voice makes me feel as though he’s singing only for me – and he’s pouring his heart into it. I can’t find a single thing to complain about here, except that the song is so short. I could listen forever.
This is one of those hallmark Duran Duran songs that only the most diehard fans ever really hear, unfortunately, because this is definitely on my top ten list of Duran Duran lyrics. While doing a little research before writing this review, I noticed that there are tons of different interpretations online of what this song means. I think it’s one of the more “genius” pieces of lyric that the band has done because it could mean a variety of things to people depending upon their own life experience, and isn’t that what we really want as writers?? I’ve read it could be about the band’s fall from the tops of the charts; about war; about how America treats it’s veterans. Personally, when I hear this song I think it’s adulthood and how all of those childhood dreams, fairy tales, and aspirations we once had in our hearts tend to wash away to a very gritty reality that we have no choice but to acknowledge and recognize. I love the line, “Learn to love your anger now, your anger here is all you possess, welcome to the edge”. There have been moments, rather recently, where I have literally sung this song at the top of my lungs while listening in the car, and yeah, it’s helped! This song can mean a variety of things, and I appreciate that Simon allows listeners the freedom to think and identify as we wish. It’s funny because when I was younger, I was desperate to know that I had the “right answer”. Somewhere along the line, I discovered that it really doesn’t matter. Music is for everyone. There are no right or wrong answers unless you’re not listening at all.
I confess, this is my very favorite song off of Big Thing. I still think it’s too short, but it continues to be one of my anthems in life, and therefore my biased self thinks it’s near-perfect. Truthfully, it is difficult to do this review without considering Lake Shore Driving, since the two songs are combined by a driving guitar that I dearly love – alas, that review will have to wait for another week or two.
Musically, this song maintains a simplicity as the song starts off with soft keyboard sounds to ease the listeners into the song. Of course, more instrumentation joins in only to go back to the focus on the keyboards only and back. In this way, the instrumentation mirrors the lyrics, which discuss both anger and resignation. Clearly, though, the instrumentation is held in the background more, allowing the vocals to take center stage. Of course, the end leads right into the next song, leaving the listener wanting more.
Simon’s vocals here are exactly what they should be. They are crisp, clear and convey the message of the song. It almost feels to me that he is acting as the conduit to millions of others who are telling their stories through him as the emotion is so pure, so unforced, so natural. He isn’t just Simon but he is the spokesperson so many others who need to have their stories told. Magical.
These lyrics are some of the most important lyrics that Simon has ever written, in my opinion. They are filled with a social commentary but is such that they could apply to many, many issues, especially issues that the U.S. confronts or needs to confront daily. I have written about how this song seems to speak of my students before here in this blog post. I wrote that blog in 2013 about how my urban students are filled with nothing but anger and that the nation seems to have turned away from them. I could write the same thing now in 2015. Many of my students are still angry, even though I work with older kids now and am teaching history as opposed to special education. I still feel as though the nation has turned its back on them and on educators as I mentioned in that blog post. To me, this song, lyrically, is what I experience on a daily basis at work as I see so many of society’s struggles walk in the door in the form of city kids. This is when Simon is at his best–when he is able to really say something that others can really relate at the core of their beings.
This is my favorite song off of Big Thing and one of my absolute favorite Duran Duran songs ever. I like the simplicity of the music and how it allows the vocals and lyrics the room to be as beautiful and passionate as they are. The only thing I would change, if I could, would be to make the song longer. I never want the song to end.