Songs: ‘Authors of Forever’ by Alicia Keys

A song on Alicia Keys’ new album, Alicia, strikes me as a tonic for this dismal year.

“Authors of Forever”, with light, propulsive and percussive rhythm and her assertive, optimistic vocals, expresses a relaxed yet steadfast sense of unity.

The tune is upbeat. Lyrics, rhyming shadow with rainbowspeak of harmony.

We are born on our own

And we die on our own

And we’re here to make meaning

Of what happens in between

We could hate, we could love

We could doubt, we could trust

But we’re here to make meaning

For as long as we’re breathing

The song’s theme, honoring the individual creator, is in the title, really. It’s featherweight pop music to lift one’s mood, one of several songs on a new album which I’m thoroughly enjoying.

Songs: “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)” by the Smashing Pumpkins

Songs: “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)” by the Smashing Pumpkins

From their album with a long-winded title, Shiny and Oh So Bright Vol. 1/LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun. with eight songs comes a compactly urgent tune in power pop from the Smashing Pumpkins, “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)”.

The poetic song by songwriter, singer and band founder William Patrick Corgan, Jr., known as Billy Corgan, captures the same sense of a moment in time as the band’s “1979”. I like “Ghosts” better, however, for getting at the here and now. With a soft skip within a propulsive rhythm against Corgan’s distinctively nasal vocals, the reflective tune revolves around the question: “How long can this go on?”

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That’s a legitimate question. Examining this theme of finiteness, Corgan’s “Ghosts” coasts with assurance in accounting for the cost of dodging contradictions. It glides without sneering.

“Ghosts” can be emotional, combining Smashing Pumpkins’ signature distortional guitar, invoked this time as part of a blaring call and response, with biting and thoughtful metaphors of tyrants, convicts, kingdoms, sirens and valentines. “Ghosts” ties into a kind of cry against the irrational — the halfway, the purgatory, the mixed — which speaks to these times. Corgan observes as if to himself that it’s mixed “signals that hurts me most … we’re in the middle / we’re in the middle, ghosts”. Like a middle-aged man, he notes that, when “someone dies tonight / it’s tragic / but at least it’s not you”.

To me, “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)” amounts to an explicit recognition of the ghoulish consequences of today’s prevalent evasion. In other words, it’s two minutes of pop rock which is perfect for right now.