Songs I Wish I Wrote: “If I Had A Heart”

Every now and again a new artist I have never heard before comes across my musical radar. More often than not, it’s either a friend or co-worker who turns me on to something. “You need to check out [insert name here] because I really think you will like them.” Other times it might be that I have read something about them or heard one of their songs on the TV/radio/movie. I discovered Jeff Buckley via The West Wing, got turned on to The Stones “Thru and Thru” via The Sopranos, and just recently during the Season 4 episode “Open House” on Breaking Bad I discovered the artist Fever Ray and her song “If I Had A Heart”.  Just like Buckley on WW or The Stones on The Sopranos, the song was used perfectly to project a certain mood of the scene.  It had me at hello.

Fever Ray is the solo project of Karen Dreijer Andersson (from Swedish duo The Knife). Before this episode aired, I had never heard one note of The Knife or Fever Ray, though I had seen the names in various places over the past year or two. It’s hard for me to separate the song from the scene at this point. If you watch Breaking Bad then you already know what the show is all about. If you don’t watch it, let’s just say the song sounds like what one of the characters was going through during this particular moment of the show: intense dread.

fever ray

No, I'm not an extra from House of 1000 Corpses. I'm Fever Ray dammit!

From the opening pizzicato loop through the deep, haunting vocal tones, to the pulsating kick drum, the song illustrates that not all music needs to be upbeat and danceable in order to keep you interested and alert. Certain music grabs you immediately, like a shark taking a bite of your leg: you’re going to pay attention to me…now! At first, you might not grasp what you are paying attention to or why but you are quite aware of its presence. Like this song or not–like most great songs–it creates a certain mood. Hell, it practically forces you into a certain head space from the first note.

I am not sure what category I would put this music in, and though everyone claims to hate categorizing music, the reality is that if you are trying to turn someone on to something new the usual first question is “what do they sound like?” or “what kinda music is it?”  Anytime you find an artist creating a sound that can spark an immediate “what the hell is this?!?!?!” response you start to get excited about the possibilities the rest of their catalogue has to offer.  I am now looking forward to exploring more of Andersson’s music, especially Fever Ray. Hopefully the rest of her music will be just as harrowing as this song.

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