Free and legal MP3 from Elizabeth Willis (classically trained singer/songwriter, with substance and tunefulness)

“In Your Eyes” – Elizabeth Willis
     When a song starts with this much immediate authority, I wonder why all songs don’t do this. Isn’t it simple?: a forceful beat, some piano vamping with nice chords changes, and a bit of tempestuous violin (and/or viola) playing. Nothing to it. Well, okay, maybe there’s a bit of something to it–especially the violin and/or viola playing. Turns out Willis is a former child prodigy in both violin and piano. Classically (and relentlessly) trained from the age of four. Maybe this isn’t so simple after all.
     Pay attention to how, right away, there’s more action during the third and fourth beats of the four-beat measures than you’ll hear during the first two. That lends an appealing off-kilterness to the standard 4/4 beat, and foreshadows the underlying structure of the song, in which the main melodies in both the verse and the chorus begin between the second and third beats. I haven’t done any formal surveys but I would say this is relatively unusual; if a pop song’s melody does not start directly on the first beat, it will usually start either between the first and second or on the second. The way the song keeps driving forward, with the melody lagging behind but forging on, lends an ineffable sort of poignancy and persistence to the sound of it. The melody also does interesting things like utilize semitones–half intervals between notes–in a sophisticated way, which I don’t think I can get more specific about it, but it has to do with the first melody that goes with the words “It was in your eyes.” And on top of everything, do not miss her fierce string playing and oh yeah, her voice–a dusky alto with a hint of vibrato–is pretty cool too.
     “In Your Eyes” is a song from her self-titled debut CD, released in September, digitally, on Little Blackbird Records.

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