James Blake’s Latest Offering Inspires Me Every Time I Listen

A little over a month ago, British singer-songwriter-producer James Blake released an enigmatic single. Although many people I know aren’t familiar with his work, Blake has been on my radar for awhile. His experimental electronic soul sound separates him from his peers. Hip-hop fans might recognize his song “Life Round Here,” seeing as Chance the Rapper spit on the non-album version. However known or unknown he is to you, James Blake is a fixture in the music industry. Most notably he features on the recent Black Panther soundtrack as well as Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Frank Ocean’s Blonde (credited as a songwriter). He and Frank are close, appearing on each other’s album liner notes. Blake even sings Blonde tracks while on tour. Both are among my favorite contemporary recording artists. Additionally, both inspire me on a daily basis.

The Brit’s latest offering is a strange one. Oddly titled “If the Car Beside You Moves Ahead,” this trippy bit of electronica fascinates my senses. The song confused me at first. Despite being well aware of Blake’s experimentation, this fluid and seemingly incomplete song structure reverts from traditional norms. It is a song with sporadic lyrics. Conversely, what it lacks in lyrical quantity it more than makes up for in depth and substance. Even though there are other stanzas in the track, I will comment on the song’s chorus, which is the most decipherable. Since James distorts his voice to near-chipmunk levels, much of the song sounds like gibberish. However, there is more here than meets the ear at first listen. “If the Car Beside You Moves Ahead” is an abstract electronic motif that poses an important question. It is a frequent question I’ve been asking myself recently.

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Why do we compare our lives to others? I see it in my daily life. The effects social media has on psyche can be catastrophic to one’s idea of self-worth. I am not you. You are not me. Therefore, what is the point of comparing ourselves to each other? In my opinion, there isn’t one. Even two people who come from the same background, city, or even neighborhood have totally different pasts and gifts. Wishing you had what someone else has, or looking down on others for what they don’t have is counterproductive. That mentality assumes a person should try to live beyond their limits. This is nonetheless one of the greatest falsehoods in modern American society. Capitalism thrives on keeping the oppressed down and the rich richer. It is a method based on traditional ideals of opportunity.

If you believe we are all given an equal opportunity to succeed in this country, you are sadly mistaken. Nevertheless, we cannot use this excuse to bury our hopes and dreams. We must combat the injustices of elitism with proper application and awareness of our individual talents. It’s really that simple. With enough work and passion anyone will be successful. That is my belief system. James Blake inspired me to share this with you. In his song, Blake sings:

“If the car beside you moves ahead

As much as it feels as though you’re dead

You’re not going backwards”

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Imagine this: You’ve worked a good job for years and years. After owning many below-average vehicles, you finally saved up enough cash to buy your first new car. Although it is merely a material possession, this car means something to you. It is a material representation of your hard work, and you deserve to enjoy it. Let’s say one day you decide to take a joy ride through the hills. You see a tunnel up ahead and go to flip on your headlights. Upon entering said tunnel, piercing blue xenon lamps illuminate behind you. You look in the rear-view and notice someone driving a Bruce Wayne-esque Lamborghini. They shift up and zoom past your car, leaving you in the dust. Now, what does this reveal about the human mind?

In that moment, I believe most people would begin to feel at least somewhat inferior. Car fanatics might be more excited than hurt. However, it does kinda suck saving up all that money just to be reminded that someone has a cooler car than you. On the surface, it doesn’t matter whatsoever. But looking deeper, this can be applied to life. If the car beside you moves ahead, does that mean that your car is not going forward? Absolutely not. Longing to be in someone else’s shoes, someone else’s car, someone else’s life, takes you out of your own driver’s seat. If you are a passenger in this life, allowing the universe to push you wherever it pleases, you will never find peace. Take it from a guy like me whose been a sidekick most of his life.

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At some point, you have to take the wheel and put your blinders on. You cannot be anyone except yourself. Give yourself some credit because that also means that no one can be you either. Take pride in who you are, where you’re from, and your personal skill set. Find your lane and keep at it. There is no benefit to comparing your life to another’s. All that does is make you feel less alive when that couldn’t be further from the truth. You’re reading this right now, which means you exist. And because you exist, you belong. Accept yourself and you will find success and happiness. That’s what James Blake taught me, anyway.

 

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