(album art from https://mremawk.bandcamp.com/track/someone)
While his songs make excellent stand-alone pieces, Emawk crafts his records as a cohesive work. He’ll weave in the same themes (topics or phrases in the lyrics) and motifs (repeated musical patterns) throughout the different tracks, connecting them as one piece. So while this post focuses on the track someone, I highly suggest listening to the entire record For Ness to fully appreciate the work.
I chose someone because it breaks Emawk’s usual musical style. Most of his songs have the lo-fi/R&B vibe, but Someone comes off as an acoustic singer/songwriter kind of song. Though the style is different, it lacks none of Emawk’s artistry or musicianship.
Someone sits as the climax of the entire record. The record itself tells a story, and the tracks follow the progression of no one, everyone, someone, and somewhere. It begins with heartbreak and having no one, moves to considering everyone, and arrives at finding someone.
At first glance, someone appears as your typical love song. But, let’s look at what makes this song different from all of the other love songs out there.
The last line of every verse includes red roses. Red roses often symbolize love or passion, which may be Emawk’s intent here. The track begins with an observation of the negative effects of roses, with the lines,
“You ask your allergies why they’re such a bother” and “You keep scratching your eyes, and they’ll keep itching”.
He also mentions roses in the previous track, everyone, with the line, “Truth is real roses have thorns.”
With this imagery of allergies and thorns, Emawk paints a realistic view of love. Like a rose, however beautiful it may be, love can be bothersome, and even painful. Yet, despite these negative aspects, he sings the refrain, “Either way, I’m in love with your red roses”.
From Roses to You
The use of red roses is beautiful, but symbolic. Abstract. Intangible. It’s as if Emawk distances himself, hiding behind red roses. He keeps the object of his love as the idea, concept, or thought of love.
However, during the bridge, in almost a mumbling, under-his-breath tone, he repeats, “roses, roses, roses, yeah”. It’s like he’s questioning if he should still keep talking about roses.
Finally, with newfound boldness, for the rest of the song, he sings, “I’ll always be in love with you”. No more abstract, distant, hiding behind roses. He’s not in love with an idea; he’s in love with a person.
Notice also the shift in the verb tense:
In the first half of the songs, he sings, “I’m in love with your red roses.” I AM in love. Present tense. Happening currently.
But after he gets rid of the roses, he sings, “I’ll always be in love with you.” Future tense. It isn’t love just for now, but an ongoing, never-ending love into the future.
Musical Highlight: Lyrical Harmony
The lyrics of the fifth verse are:
“It’s okay to look for truth even if you doubt it
It’s okay to look alone every once in a while
It’s okay to be alone with the truth for a while
Truth is I’m in love with your red roses”
Emawk creatively arranges the musical details to mirror the movement of the lyrics. The lyrics of the first line (looking for truth) and the second line (looking alone) contain similar structures, but the ideas seem independent. In the third line, he combines these two independent thoughts into the same line (being alone with the truth).
This lyrical creativity is reflected in the music. The first two lines with independent thoughts are sung with singular, independent vocals. But on the third line, he adds more vocals, creating a three part harmony. This emphasizes the harmony within the lyrics as well.
Artists have a particular burden to not only say something, but to say something beautifully. I’m always fascinated with how artists can communicate simple messages through creative and beautiful language. Here are a few of those instances:
“Found your frame of reference deep in your siesta habit.”
Excessive sleep often accompanies depression, and depression often accompanies heartbreak. Considering the previous verse regarding allergies and itching eyes (as a result of the red roses, or love), and the previous line, “You tried to dream away everything that happened”, you can imagine him sympathizing with the pain. Yet, instead of simply calling it a depressive episode affecting the entire mindset, he sings, “found your frame of reference deep in your siesta habit.”
“It’s okay to let them know they made you wonder wilder.”
Another common result of heartbreak is overthinking and reflection, often to irrational thoughts. Emawk uses alliteration (the repetition of the same letter or sound) in “wonder wilder” and even creates a catchy rhythm with the syllables to communicate this idea of overthinking. The word “wilder” invokes images of craziness or lunacy, which is often what heartbreak feels like.
Now that you’ve read some of these observations, take another listen to the song! Hopefully you’ll hear some of these things, and you’ll appreciate this beauty all the more. If you haven’t heard of him, please take a listen to Emawk’s music. He’s yet to release a song I haven’t fallen in love with.
If this post helped you to listen deeply, feel free to share it! Look out for another post next Friday.