78. Vanessa Carlton - A Thousand Miles

It starts off like a piano concerto that you walked into that you didn't mean to. I wanted to listen to this song that everyone's talking about and I get some Chopin that someone did at an allegro tempo? But then the melody the piano plays starts to get you. Then the drums kick in and Vanessa starts singing. End of lesson. Let the fantastic song begin.

Vanessa Carlton grew up in a house where her mother loved the piano and classical music, while her father was a classic rock fan. So in this song, she takes the classical music sensibilities of her mom and adds the rock/pop influence of her dad and blends them perfectly, so both mom and dad are undoubtedly proud. Getting pop music fans to listen to classical music is a tough sell, much like vegetables and children. So like the moms that add shredded carrots to brownies, Vanessa exposes us to music that we wouldn't normally listen to and makes it sound so great that we're thirsty for more.

Vanessa came up with the piano intro and played it for her mother, who called it a hit, but then she hit some writer's block and shelved the idea. A few months later, she finished the basics for the song in a whirlwind hour session. The song she came up with at that session, however, wasn't the one that ended up released on her album, Be Not Nobody. It took lots and lots of work to get it to work just right. With all the disparate elements that the song had, a lot of production and tweaking was needed to make it sound cohesive. This is one of those times where lots of hard work paid off. The result is a great pop song, from the unlikeliest of inspirations, classical music.

With as much work as they had to do on it, there's none of the overproduction that lots of songs that are worked on this much can fall prey to. Musically, the piano is the star and Vanessa knows it. There's some nice drum work and simple, but effective, guitars, but they are supporting players and they know it. There are some additional violins for punch in some spots, atmosphere in others.

Lyrically, the song is pretty simple. She's rushing home to be with her love. The only problem is that she's not sure whether the feeling is mutual or not. She's willing to "walk a thousand miles" but fears that it may all be wasted effort.

It's always times like these
When I think of you
And I wonder
If you ever
Think of me

The not knowing is the hardest part. Is he thinking of me? Does he love me as much as I love him? This song's upbeat styling belies the uncertainty of her future with her boyfriend. Many women sympathized and it became a kind of anthem for the romantically unsure.

Since this has been her only Top 20 US hit, some may consider her a one hit wonder, but if you listen to her albums, you'll see that there's lasting talent there. From her second album, Harmonium, check out the song "San Francisco." It's one of my favorites by her.

So even though it's referred to in the Wayan Brothers movie, "White Chicks," as "like, the whitest song ever," it's still a great song, and one that I could probably listen to once a week for the rest of my life.

Here's her video link from Youtube:


And this is one that you can see with the lyrics:

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