Scroll down to listen to “It Ought to be Easier” by Lyle Lovett (plays in Spotify)
“Country music is three chords and the truth.”—Harlan Howard
I hope I’m not alone when I say that I have a break-up song associated with almost every relationship I’ve been in. If you’re currently in the market for such a song, I might point you to country music. Clichés aside, country music has some of the finest songwriters going, and they’re particularly good with relationships and heartbreak. Bad country writers stick to the same tropes, but the good ones find a more nuanced view of what is almost never a straightforward situation.
Lyle Lovett is a good one.
“It Ought to Be Easier,” is a track buried in his 1996 album The Road to Ensenada, and it’s written from the point of view of someone who realizes that they need to end their relationship, but just can’t push themselves over the brink.
Neil Sedaka observed that “breaking up is hard to do,” but didn’t really talk much more about it. Lovett tackles this observation head-on, particularly in the second pre-chorus:
“And you tell me I’m the one you’re not to blame
And you tell me I make you feel the same way
And we talk in circles but we never say
It’s just out of weakness that both of us stay”
Sedaka is so vague he becomes clinical, but Lovett’s specificity seems to extend an arm around you and tell you that he (or perhaps more accurately his character) has been there too.
That’s the other beautiful thing about music, particularly in times of great emotional stress. It provides you with the knowledge that someone else has experienced and survived what you are going through. Even more than that, there is something undeniably cathartic in raising your voice together with someone who has suffered as you have. That’s the reason, I think, why song is a part of so many religions, particularly in times of need.
Those are some heavy thoughts to hang on Lovett’s songwriting, but luckily it’s solid enough to bear the weight.