I downloaded this song back in the late 2000s and, after losing several of my playlists in a system restore, it had fallen in with the rank and file of the rest of music from that period of my life. Back then, I was drawn into Yamagata’s direct lyrics and the smooth sounds of her accompaniment. When I first heard this song I was hooked instantly and it earned a spot on several playlists and on repeat.
Recently I was sitting, writing a high-conflict scene in a novel I’ve been working on for a while, when in the background Rachel Yamagata’s “Worn Me Down” started playing. But, this time, hearing it was different. My character in the scene I was writing was coming to blows with someone who had been influential in how she got to where she was. In the context of the scene, the song started to take on a whole new meaning.
I pictured someone standing there, in front of someone else, stating an opinion and calling the other person out:
Gone, she’s gone.
How do you feel about it?
That’s what I thought.
You’re real torn up about it.
The entire song reads like one half of a conversation with small pauses where you can imagine someone else responding. The conflict escalates in the second verse:
And you’re wrong. You’re wrong.
I’m not overreacting.
Something is off.
Why don’t we ever believe ourselves?
The lyrics speak to a state of mind I think most people know all too well. Doubting your instincts just because someone else says your perception isn’t the right one.
When I first discovered the song, I read it as being about a breakup or about a significant other hung up on someone else, but now I can also see it as having a crisis of confidence.
The lyrics are vague enough that you can read any of these scenarios into them, but after about the 2,000th listen, it occurred to me that Yamagata never specifically references another person. She never paints a clear picture of who “she” is, except to say that she’s so pretty:
She’s so pretty.
She’s so damn right.
But I’m so tired of thinking about her, again, tonight.
Once the singer gets to that place, the music swells, and she continues to repeat: “No, you can’t stop thinking about her.”
(Song recommendation by Lauren Busser)