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The stunning collection of songs on Happy? perfectly illustrate Arden's incomparable knack for evoking pictures through words. It's found fully realized in songs like "Saved" and "Holy Moses", the latter with its haunting, sparse instrumentation, accompanied only by Arden and Elder's unearthly harmonies. Arden describes the album's first single, "The Sound Of" as "a song about sounds you can't even hear "Oh the sound of the wind through my heart makes me glad/for all the ones that never knew my name". Arden says, "It's about things you agonize over, but ultimately can't do anything about". The themes of stillness and loss play out further, sometimes with anguish, on songs like "Ode to a Friend", and "Hanging by a Thread"; "The salt inside my body ruins/everyone I come close to/My hands are barely holding up my head/Oh I'm so tired of looking at my feet/And all the secrets that I keep".

Love's ephemeral nature is conjured up in "Wishing That", with its nakedly emotional refrain "Wishing that you love me too" and "And you could see through/everything I said I was falling/and you said not to fall on you/I've bitten every finger 'till it bled" The summoning of images through language is perhaps nowhere more evident that on the extraordinary "Weeds", which was inspired, Arden says, by Billy Cowsill (The Cowsills, Blue Shadows). The startling declaration that "I am like a weed at the side of the road/Nothing but filthy air/gotta get out of here/ I'm like a weed and you know how hard they can be to kill/and you can't kill me" is Arden at her allegorical best, but also suggests a more sophisticated reckoning with life's vagaries. "It's about making big mistakes, Arden says."It's about facing adversity and carrying on." "I will get by" repeats stolidly, and emerges as the songs central, unifying theme.
This tenacity and spirit have informed Arden's career every step of the way. Future success appears certain to eclipse past accomplishments, but Arden has her feet firmly planted. She sums herself up. "I'm down to earth, not at all starstruck. I'm a good friend to my friends. At heart, I'm just a small-town girl singing about simple sentiment".


Jann Arden

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