53. The Verve Pipe - Colorful

There are songs that I listen to and wish I could have written them for my lovely wife, Jennifer. She deserves angelic choruses for all that she has done to make my family the wonderful one that it is (and I don't just mean our two awesome sons, she's done lots to help with the family I had before she came along). I'm an okay writer, I think, but I can't really craft a song with any skill. So a poem I might be able to create, and a passable one at that, but putting it to music is beyond my capabilities. Listening to talented songwriters frustrates me a bit, with jealously rearing its ugly head. But after I get over it, I can appreciate their talent and enjoy their odes to the ones they love. Then I just tell my wife, "Well, if I could write a song worthy of you, it'd be this one."

"Colorful" by The Verve Pipe is that song for me. If there could only be one song that I could dedicate to my wife, this would have to be it. The words that singer and songwriter Brian Vander Ark wrote are ones I wish I could've written for Jennifer. I'll steal them, though, as we all have, as a proxy for my own feelings.

"Colorful" is a song about having someone who is dedicated to you truly in both good times and bad. Most people say it at their wedding, but do their later actions actions match those words spoken years before. In this song, she certainly has lived up to them. The protagonist of the song is Van der Ark himself, writing to his beloved about when his fair weathered "friends" abandoned him, she stood by his side:

And all the random hands that I have shook
Well they're reaching for the door
I watch their backs as they leave single file
But you stood stubborn, cheering all the while

The song starts off slowly with just a simple acoustic guitar playing simple chords. Brian (I would say Vander Ark, but Brian's brother, Brad, plays bass in the band) then comes in with his wonderful melody paired with the perfect lyrics. Just a guy with his guitar, singing to his true love. That's the purest form of songwriting, writing a song for the one who brightens your day when the clouds, both in the sky and in your head, seem like they'll never go away.

Slowly instruments are added, starting with some subtle keyboards, then a tamborine, then a pulsing guitar until the drums kick in and pick up the pace a bit. The echoing electric guitar adds to the atmosphere of the song, and near the end there is a violin solo, rather than some stock guitar solo. You don't often see violins highlighted in songs, and it gives the song some extra flavor.

Brian sings with passion, mirroring the emotions that flood through him, barely controlled by his own levees of restraint. In the end, the emotion spills over and shows in his performance.

You are more beautiful when you awake
Than most are in a lifetime
Through the haze that is my memory well
You stayed for drama though you paid for a comedy

After building to a rich climax, then the instrumentation breaks back down, leaving both the electric and acoustic guitars to take us out where just the acoustic guitar brought us in. The song fades away and leaves your heart fuller than it was just minutes before. And if you have a love of your life like I do, a smile can't help but break out on your face. You are loved probably more than you deserve, but you are appreciative and grateful every day.

Okay, in full disclosure, I found out about this song only because it's featured prominently in the movie Rock Star, starring Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Anniston. I know many people think it's an inane motion picture, but it's a guilty pleasure for my wife and me. If you don't take it too seriously (which it certainly doesn't), it's a lot of fun and it has a pretty good heart to it as well. It surely doesn't hurt that it's about a hair-metal band in the 80's and I was a pretty big fan of hair-metal music (although I don't hold a candle to the king of chronicling 80's metal, Chuck Klosterman. Another quick recommendation: if like 80's metal and haven't read Klosterman's Fargo City Rock, you've missed out big time. Go get it, today. My favorite part is where he lists albums not for how much he likes them, but by how much money you'd have to pay him to never listen to that album again. So, homework metalmaniacs: Rock Star and Fargo City Rock. There will be a test next week and you can earn extra credit by doing an essay on the environmental impact of the chlorofluorocarbons released into the atmosphere by hair-metal bands.

(Unfortunate Fact #4: Sometimes the internet sucks. You find out things that you don't want to know. While doing research for this entry, I discovered that like many songwriters who write fantastic songs for the ones they love, it often doesn't last. Brian Vander Ark and his beloved from "Colorful" did in fact break up, and it was extremely painful for him. He chronicled the flip side to "Colorful" with a track on his first solo album, Resurrection, titled "And Then You Left." I won't do another entry on that song, but I will give you some lyrics and a video link:

There were no signs
There were no warnings
Saying that it's over
All you left behind was everything

Unfortunately, it looks like she didn't stay through all the drama.)

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