In our daily lives, will like things to be straightforward. In music, though, a touch of ambiguity seems to make things more powerful.
Take Don’t Fade On Me, by Tom Petty for example.
The song is about loss for sure. But whose loss? the speaker’s? the subject’s? an irretrievable loss? an imminent loss?
Is the singer sad? afraid? angry? Who is he singing to? A lover? sibling? friend? parent? hero?
Are we talking about physical loss? loss of health? loss of sanity?
What triggered all this? Perhaps the speaker doesn’t even know:
Was it love that took you under?
Or did you know too much?
Was it something you could picture,
But never could quite touch?
All very dark and mysterious. And the music just adds to it. A folk song with a blues hook and a bluegrass solo. Talk about ambiguous!
Art imitates life, and life is complicated, ambiguous, weird and wonderful. We might crave certainty, but what we get is a big dish of dubious.
Comfortable? Nope. That’s why this song is such a powerful emotional trip.