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Brandy Clark Will Be the Sad Song

On “Your Life is a Record”, Clark Digs Deep On Relationships

By Annalisha Fragmin

“Your Life is a Record” is a departure from Clark’s previous two albums. Instead of dishing on the harsh realities of small towns, this album’s truth is far more intimate. It’s entirely about doomed relationships, and although the subject is a comforting familiarity within country music, Clark’s skills as a songwriter make even the oldest of truths seem like new revelations.

Of course, break-ups are messy, and what makes “Your Life is a Record” so refreshing is the fact that the songs often contradict one another. “I’ll Be the Sad Song,” offers a wistful perspective that maybe it is better to have been the “sad song” in someone’s life than to have never met them at all. “Couldn’t be your happy song, but at least we had a song,” Clark muses.

But in “Can We be Strangers,” Clark suggests that if she could do it all over again, she would happily go back in time and erase any relationship beyond strangers with her ex. After all, “You don’t miss some place you’ve never been.” A third perspective comes along in “Who Broke Whose Heart,” in which Clark asserts that she doesn’t care who was to blame, because “All I know is that I loved you, so fuck the rest.”

Although the album is mostly a relationship record, there are a couple of songs that hint at social commentary. “Pawn Shop” offers some much-needed shade of a music industry that can aptly be described as a “young man’s town… watching me get older,” while “Bigger Boat” is a duet with Randy Newman which offers commentary on such diverse topics as politics, which foods are giving cancer to rats, and pollution. These songs have a level of melancholy that lets them snuggle seamlessly into this record. If most of this album allows Clark to sing about her struggles with a personal relationship, these two songs offer a chance for Clark to sort through her relationship with society as a whole.

Even “Bad Car,” which is literally a song about saying good-bye to an old car that broke down more often than it ran, positions Clark’s interaction with the vehicle as a relationship. She laments that, “It witnessed all those tears nobody ever saw me cry / When I broke the law through Arkansas to tell my dad goodbye /It didn’t get there pretty, but it got me there that day / So I’m a little sad to see it roll away.” In a genre where men sing love songs to pick-up trucks we never quite believe they drive, Clark is able to skillfully make us actually believe that she is struggling not to cry over her relationship with her car.

But perhaps “Bad Car” ultimately reveals that greatest strength of the record. The theme of riding in a “big, jacked up pick-up truck” that Luke Bryan and the bro-country boys keep singing about is just not that relatable. But having a crappy car that we had to rely on through the worst of times is something that hits home; it is the “truth” Howard spoke about years ago. Clark sings songs about regular people and all of our messy flaws, and that comes through loud and clear in every song on this ultra-relatable record.