Saturday, August 18, 2012

Track Talk - "The Show" by Lenka, performed by Kerris Dorsey

I'm just a little bit caught in the middle
Life is a maze and love is a riddle
I don't know where to go, can't do it alone
I've tried, but I don't know why

The other day I decided to watch Moneyball again – stemming from a conversation about how Clint Eastwood's upcoming Trouble with the Curve looks like a Bizarro-world version of the film – and discovered that the film holds up well. Damn well, considering I know where the story is supposed to go and why Jonah Hill got his Oscar nomination and how Aaron Sorkin's dialogue rolls off of Brad Pitt's tongue like boulders after Indiana Jones… actually, I think I've just described why it holds up so well. Q.E.D.

Anyway, one part I didn't remember, and the part that cat-in-horror-picture jumped out at me, was when Billy Bean's daughter Casey plays him a song in the middle of a guitar store, and that same song plays near the end during an extended shot when Billy decides whether to leave Oakland or to stay with the A's. The song is Lenka's "The Show," and in the film it is performed by actress and singer Kerris Dorsey. I've been obsessed with the song for the past few days, and on this fine Saturday morning (afternoon to you on the East coast!) I want to write about it.

"The Show" belongs in the lilting camp of indie-pop, a genre I try to avoid because I don't like when I can hear a singer audibly smirking during his or her performance. That was mean; let's it try again. "The Show" is indie-pop, a genre I generally don't care for. What's different about "The Show," what separates it from so many other indie-pop songs my former college roommate used to listen to, is that it has an honest-to-blog* melody and said melody is really damn catchy. Moreover, the lyrics are fun and earnest; they're phonetically playful without sounding overly clever (listen to the small internal rhyme of "little" and "middle" during the chorus) and straightforward enough for a curmudgeon like me to get behind. It's like someone took everything I didn't like about Juno's soundtrack and corrected to fit my taste.

Even better than Lenka's version is Dorsey's cover, which was recorded for the movie's soundtrack and can (read: should) be purchased on iTunes right this very second. Lenka's original take on the song is full of large, bombastic sections of horns, strings, and other instruments that all sound, for my ears, too large for tiny song like "The Show;" perhaps it fits if you take the title literally and imagine a sort of Ziegfeld's Follies-esque stage performance – the bridge conjured images of a velvet curtain and balancing elephant in my head, but I don't expect everyone who hears horn-pop to get knee-jerk images of the circus.

Dorsey, though… ah, now we have something. Dorsey nails the small, anxious emotions suggested by the lyrics, and the intimacy afforded by an acoustic guitar turns the song into a sort of confession set to music – a way to express and deal with insecurity, rather than a gaudy, showy number. Her voice is timid but strong, and comes from genuine place of diffidence, selling the experience and making everything sound so personal, inviting us to share with what she's feeling. I get the sense that she just wants to enjoy the show in front of her, rather than be the show itself, and it's this difference by degrees that makes Dorsey – only twelve when this song was produced! – an essential part of why "The Show" works as well as it does.

"The Show" is, really, an anti-Andrew song; intimate, sparse, and bloody acoustic pop. Still, I'm not going to fight when I like something so damn much, and I do enjoy "The Show" an awful lot.