Broken Glass is that rarest of things. A pop song, well, a pop ballad anyway, that rather than make itself known by pitching the genre’s most obvious and over-used elements, heads into more deft and delicate, almost neo-classical realms. It might seem evident that spacious, understated, restrained music is every bit as potent and powerful as its more energetic pop sibling, but so few get it right.
The pop ballad, and even that description seems not to do this song justice, should allow space between the notes and in the pauses for breath where all manner of atmospherics and anticipations are allowed to pool and percolate. The pop ballad’s evocativeness, not to mention its effectiveness, comes from the fact that it is more than the sum of its parts, that less calculated, and less tangible elements join the more planned and predicted sounds.
So many wannabe popsters’ take on the classic ballad is just to remove the drum machine or to err too much on the side of ambient and drifting. Broken Glass is the sound of someone understanding what such a genre is all about.
The piano gently cascades, as much composed from restraint as it is from the structure. And even with such a gentle platform for the song, Dixie Ziemba’s vocals dance over such sonic subtleties. But space is not the whole story; space is, after all, just a lack of something. What is actually filling those spaces between the notes, or as one lyric fades out and before the next is ushered in, is emotion, passion and the less tangible affairs of the heart.
Broken Glass is a triumph of gracefulness over groove. Of emotion over energy. Of passion over predictability. Class over cliche. Whereas the modern pop artist might think that the art of the ballad is to tug at heartstrings, Broken Glass proves that the best of its kind actually caresses the listener’s very soul.
When was the last time a pop record managed to do that to you?