Beautiful Blanks

Being born in this generation, where one is exposed to content from various media, I can’t avoid being influenced by songs I like. I hear a certain line, listen to a certain riff or hook, and it sticks. Why? Is it because it connects with my emotions and personality? Or is it because my personality, through continuous exposure to it, has been molded and shaped to prefer a particular kind of music? Not sure.

One of the bands that I responded strongly to was a band called Sugarfree. The first album was released in 2003; the last was released in 2009. There were five in all, and each one was good. The songs’ themes were all sentimental, oscillating between celebrating the experience of love and mourning its passing. A few songs explored other themes, but a large part, like much of Filipino music, was focused on love. The melodies were great, and the lyrics never failed to blow me away.

Here is one song of theirs I like. It’s entitled “Burnout.” Roughly translated into English, here is how it goes:

Oh don’t look at me
In the way you’re doing right now
Don’t bother me
Don’t ask me a thing

Because just like you
I have changed
We are not the way we were
Moments pass so quickly

Chorus:
Oh for a long time, I have loved you
Oh for a long time, I have loved you

If you consider things
It didn’t use to be like this
Just a minute, hold on
When did we start feeling put off?

If you consider things
It didn’t use to be like this
It’s just that life is so fast
Even we were swept away

(Chorus)

Oooh… Ooh..

I call to you
I woo you
Though you don’t hear it
Though you don’t feel it

Oh for a long time, I will love you
Oh for a long time, I will love you

The translation is clumsy, of course. Reading it again, I see so much of the impact is lost in English. But considering how little is said about the actual relationship between the singer and the one for whom the song is sung, it’s amazing how much emotion gets through. That’s the beauty of it. The listener is left to imagine what they are going through, what could have possibly brought them where they are. Never mind describing their faces, the place they’re in, how many tears are falling, or what they’re arguing about. Let’s not even talk about their gender (the video notwithstanding; the song by itself leaves it open). All that’s irrelevant. The listener can fill in the blanks however he or she likes, using whatever experience he or she has gone through.

Great songs are like that. Universal, but not generic. It’s sad that Sugarfree have broken up (the lead singer, Ebe Dancel, is still in music, and has come up with a solo album), but I will always have a soft spot for music like theirs: music that leaves room for musing.

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