Chasing the Sun by Sara Bareilles

"Lyrically, this song is just an artistic masterpiece. If it doesn’t speak to your soul, then your soul is not listening."
Track: Chasing the Sun
Album: The Blessed Unrest
Artist: Sara Bareilles
Genre: pop, singer/songwriter
Music Rating: 7/10
Lyrics Rating: 10/10
Overall:
8/10
Interesting Fact: She speaks Italian and lived in Italy for a year.
Bonus Fact: This is one of the few albums that I own on CD and digital and vinyl. And no, I do not think that’s excessive.
Best thing About this Track: “So how do you do it with just words and just music? Capture the feeling that my earth is somebody’s ceiling.” She did it. She freaking did it!
One thing I wish was different: This track intellectually has no equal, but I wish it was a little more catchy or just more “fun” to listen to.
Website: Sara Bareilles

This track, you guys. I remember absolutely losing my mind when it came out. The genius of this song is simply unfathomable. For real. I dare you to attempt fathoming it. ’Tis not possible. You’d be more successful trying to touch your nose with both of your elbows at the same time.

Okay, let’s get into it. It’s a Sara Bareilles song which means: piano. No surprises there. She even throws in her signature piano chord half-transition bass line in the second half of the first verse, this time making it even more interesting by using a minor chord. What you may find surprising once you get into it, however,  is the heavy drum presence. Although par for the album, it’s a definite departure from her work prior to “The Blessed Unrest”, but a very welcome departure in my opinion. If you are still unfazed, just wait. This hook is about to sneak up and deliver an uppercut to your beautiful face. *POW* What??? That interval though. Is that even allowed? She just. *brain explodes* She ended the hook on a seventh. You strain your ears for this next part, certain that your brain has deceived you, waiting for the hook to come back like you intuitively know that it will because the chorus is not over yet and it cannot be left this way. It must be resolved. Thankfully, the hook does come back around and . . . AN OCTAVE! Or was it an octave? Was there ever a seventh at the end of that first hook? Are you losing your actual mind? Did you just make that up? She is just playing with you now. The track moves right along as if nothing happened, but that is not a blow you’ll soon recover from. You’re still in beautiful mental anguish, happily distressed when the next chorus comes ‘round again and you hear it the same way that you heard it the first time. Then the penny drops. She used the refrain to give the leading tone a freaking intermission. I just. That my friends is the very definition of evil genius. Evil. Genius. She just dangled you over a cliff emotionally and then said, “Hold that thought.” Which seems pretty rich coming from Ms. Head-under-water-and-you-tell-me-to-breathe-easy-for-awhile. I dare you to try singing along though. Seriously. It’s easier than the elbow thing, but it still took me a couple of tries.

Lyrically, this song is just an artistic masterpiece. If it doesn’t speak to your soul, then your soul is not listening. As far as content, it’s about facing and coming to terms with your own mortality. In doing so, the speaker begins realizing what a great gift it is to be alive and truly starts to learn the value of life, resolving to live more completely and purposefully. At the beginning of the song the narrator starts to notice the parallels between the abstract world of the dead and the actual world of the living, fully relating to deceased persons seemingly for the first time. Instead of instilling fear or panic as it does in most people, the connection and empathy towards those who have gone before seems to provide strength, hope, awe, gratitude, and a reinvigorated zeal for life.

As far as structure goes, this is a clinic! She sets up a framework in the first stanza and then remains unwavering for 20 lines, never once deviating from her rather ambitious rhyme scheme. That may not seem like big deal, but that is very rare in modern music. Most songs use the chorus as a refrain and reset button to start over and do whatever they want in the next verse. There were several opportunities for Sara to take the easy way out, but she did not and the constant (and sometimes unexpected) internal rhymes leave me giggling and impressed. Not only was she disciplined enough to stay faithful to her rhyme scheme, but she used really interesting and creative rhymes. Nothing was cliche or obvious nor did it sound out of place. Usually with a parameter that vigorous maintained for that many stanzas the content will start to feel stale and contrived, but this feels as effortless as a feather on the breeze while still bearing all of the imbued weight that a meaningful discussion on life and death should have.

All the while, each stanza which begins with a lively back and forth rhyming match is punctuated by the refrain “a cemetery in the center of Queens”. Reminding us that at the center of life is death. We try to live on the fringe and ignore it, but it is the unspoken inevitability that lies at our core. It is only when we embrace our skeleton with living flesh that we can move about and do things. If we reject our framework, we have no strength, no power, and no meaning. Without our skeletons, we are going nowhere. Rather than despair at the inevitability of death and resign from life, we are reminded that with only skeletons, we also go nowhere. So what do we do? We learn from the past. We take the good with the bad. We mourn what is lost and rejoice in what we have.  “All we can do is try and live like we’re still alive.”

Follow on Bloglovin

Lyrics:
It’s a really old city split between the dead and the living
So I thought to myself, sitting on a graveyard shelf
As the echo of heartbeats from the ground below my feet
Filled a cemetery in the center of Queens

I started running the maze of the names and the dates
Some older than others, the skyscrapers’ little tombstone brothers
With Manhattan behind her 3 million stunning reminders
Built a cemetery in the center of Queens

You said remember that life is not meant to be wasted
We can always be chasing the sun
So fill up your lungs and just run
We’ll always be chasing the sun!

So how do you do it with just words and just music
Capture the feeling that my earth is somebody’s ceiling
Can I deliver in sound, the weight of the ground
Of a cemetery in the center of Queens

There’s a history through her sent to us as a gift from the future
To show us the proof. More than that, it’s to dare us to move
And to open our eyes and to learn from the sky
From a cemetery in the center of Queens

You said, remember that life is not meant to be wasted
We can always be chasing the sun
So fill up your lungs and just run
We’ll always be chasing the sun
All we can do is try
And live like we’re still alive

It’s a really old city split between the dead and the living
So I thought to myself, sitting on a graveyard shelf
And the gift of my heartbeat sounds like a symphony
Played by a cemetery in the center of Queens

You said, remember that life is not meant to be wasted
We can always be chasing the sun
So fill up your lungs and just run
We’ll always be chasing the sun

All we can do is try
And live like we’re still alive

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

3 thoughts on “Chasing the Sun by Sara Bareilles

  • October 17, 2016 at 4:39 am
    Permalink

    What does “sitting on a graveyard shelf mean” ? – as well as “Skyscrapers little brothers tombstones “? Meaning?
    Thank you. I have a fascination with cemeteries, not Goth, don’t research them, nor do rubs on tombstones. Don’t understand why I do but I do. Love this song

    Reply
    • October 17, 2016 at 7:26 am
      Permalink

      Thanks for your comment. What a great question! The great thing about music generally (and this song specifically) is that you can ponder upon its meaning and come back with infinite conclusions or idealizations.

      To me, the “graveyard shelf” was always a stone bench in the graveyard. Why say “shelf” and not “bench”? I’ve always imagined her to be sitting atop a city of the dead, as if she’d taken an elevator to the roof (“my earth is somebody’s ceiling”). I feel as though she’s referencing her eventual belonging to the graveyard by placing herself on a stone shelf alongside them (or in this case, on top of them).

      “Skyscrapers’ little tombstone brothers” is one of my favorite lines that really parallels the land of the dead with the land of the living. Looking to the New York skyline, you can see an impressive array of majestic buildings that house hundred of people busy going about their day. Looking out into the graveyard, you can see a similar microcosm of the city spanning back through time. Instead of buildings of the future, these tombstones are memorials to the past. Those who owned and roamed the city before us. The city of the dead (the graveyard) seems to be mirroring visually the whole of the city of light (NY skyline).

      Reply
      • October 17, 2016 at 9:17 pm
        Permalink

        Your words flow nicely you should write. I’m too literal for I take “My earth is somebody’s ceiling”, literal. Those whom are buried under ones feet their ceiling is indeed the earth I walk on.

        The analogy you Gave about sitting on a grave yard shelf again I took literally. As a favorite book we place on a shelf. Until it’s time, just like all of us. She’s waiting however as she states in her song life is not meant to be wasted.

        I have a Harley and love to leave my home around 4:00am and ride for several hours and find a place to watch the sun rise. I feel I’m chasing the sun. Again literally before the day begins.

        That time of day it is like sitting in a graveyard. I’m alone with my thoughts. Life has yet to get moving. It’s a real peaceful time. It’s therapeutic and I think Sarah offers hope and it’s helped me to feel that much more positive. Having had to deal with major depression and suicide attempts and Baker Acts. This is the first song in a long time to offer me hope.

        Anie thank you for your thought provoking input! It’s greatly appreciated. You must be an artist ….. best wishes.

        Always be chasing your sun (your dreams)

        Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *