#21 – Vanilla Twilight


Artist – Owl City
Album – Ocean Eyes
Year – 2008
Genre – Pop-Rock/Electronic Pop

I have a lot of respect for Adam Young. The frontman/brainchild behind Owl City is a man who writes exactly about his feelings in a totally honest way, but encapsulates them in whimsical, creative lyrics and wonderfully catchy and often beautifully textured music. This is a man who has found his niche, and who knows what he has to do and does it the only way he knows how. Let’s take a look at Vanilla Twilight, a song which is actually one of the more beautiful love songs I’ve heard recently.

The first thing to address here is Mr. Young’s voice. I’ve been fortunate enough to see Owl City live, and I can tell you his voice does indeed sound much like it does in his songs. Does it sound exact? No, but it’s certainly not as pitch corrected as most think. His singing voice is quite natural, and I find it to be quite beautiful and sensitive.

The music starts off with simple piano chords, and then more and more textures are added as each verse progresses. There’s some absolutely wonderful synth sounds that Young has in his repertoire that make this song sound magical. Some twinkling sounds right after the first verse sound great, and the melody played over the top of the second verse is extremely well constructed and blends seamlessly with the lyrical melody. It’s almost more catchy too!

The real musical treat here is when the key changes for the last verse and the music swells for the last powerful verse. All the layers come together, and the vocal melody is repeated in a great sounding synth at the end of the song. The music is typical Owl City, but by no means does that make it boring. It’s actually wonderful to listen to, and it fits the mood and message Young tries to convey here. It’s soft, sensitive, flowing, and if I were to describe in a personal adjective…kind.

The lyrics are the star of the show here. The words that a lot of people would call “cute”, I call simply beautiful. It’s a song that follows the “you left me and now I’m sad” trope, but it follows it in a way that really captures the sadness of that idea. Who are we to deny the tragedy of such a moment, as it is. In fact, we do this with many songs. We simply dismiss it as another “girl leaves boy” or “boy finds girl” song. But there is so much emotion in these moments in life. They will never run out of songs to write about them, because they are that powerful.

Anyway, Young does a brilliant job of his own capturing this. I’ll list some of the best lines now:

“The stars lean down to kiss you, and I lie awake and miss you.”

“The silence isn’t so bad, til I look at my hands and feel sad. Cause the spaces between my fingers are right where yours fit perfectly.”

Let’s stop for a second. Wow, what a lovely sentiment. Hand holding is such a simple gesture most take for granted, and yet Young takes this and makes it a thing to cherish and reflect upon. This line gave me shivers. It’s clever and sweet at the same time.

“When I think of you, I don’t feel so alone”

“As many times as I blink, I’ll think of you tonight.”

These are all simple statements of loneliness and longing. Yet each one is very emotional in its own way. Again, the simplest things are often the most remembered. The best is saved for last, though, as the key change signals that Young is about to let himself go.

I can actually picture Young crying during this last verse. That’s how much emotion I picked up on here. He has no pretense here, and he almost yells it for all to hear.

“If my voice could reach back through the past, I’d whisper in your ear…oh darling I wish you were here.”

Bam. Emotional knockout. We feel this line, because we share his experiences. They are our own, and with the music, lyrics, and voice combining for this last emotional punch, we feel his sadness and it becomes ours. The best songs do this to us, and though often scoffed as just a pop musician, Mr. Young has an immense talent for providing great emotional resonance with his audience. He knows what we go through with love and loss, and he puts it down in a way we can all understand.

A lot of music is about looking beneath the layers, and this song is a great example of that. When you peel it back, Vanilla Twilight is a beautiful song about the beauty of loving, and how devastating it is when that beauty is gone. The music reflects the words, and provides a lovely background, just like a great painting. It’s certainly catchy, but what makes this song a must have is so much more. It’s the meaning we find through emotion, and sometimes you have to do a little digging to find it.

So what do you guys think? What did you find in the song that spoke to you? Let me know below!

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