Joey + Rory – “To Say Goodbye”
Songwriters: Rory Feek, Joey Martin, Jamie Teachenor
Joey + Rory take a different tack for the third single from their 2008 debut, The Life of a Song. Instead of another catchy, upbeat number like “Cheater Cheater” or “Play the Song”—neither of which really stormed the charts—the husband-and-wife duo have released a downtempo ballad, “To Say Goodbye,” to see if that fares any better.
Let’s hope it doesn’t.
Do you really want a song as sappy as this to become a radio staple? Joey Martin Feek sings about lost love and loneliness in their most basic forms, over bland accompaniment accentuated by soundtrack piano. In the first verse, a woman loses her husband in 9/11. In the second, an old man lovingly cares for his wife, who has Alzheimer’s and can’t remember him. And in the chorus, Joey sings about how much it hurts that they didn’t get to say good-bye.
Country music does sentimental better than just about any other genre, but “To Say Goodbye” crosses an important line between sentiment and treacle—the line that separate the-way-things-were ballads from kids-with-cancer anthems—and what might have been tolerable becomes exploitive. The woman’s husband doesn’t just die in a plane crash, but in 9-freakin’-11! National tragedies and personal illnesses are certainly legitimate concerns for musicians and artists to address, but this song indulges melodrama with no real focus or point. Rather than ache with any semblance of humanity, the characters are barely even cardboard, and so these scenarios feel under-imagined and clichéd rather than universal and relatable.
Worse, “To Say Goodbye” sounds weirdly truncated, as if there’s a third verse missing where the widow visits the old man in the nursing home. At least that plot twist might have provided some sort of narrative resolution, which would make the verses more than simply clinical case studies.
“To Say Goodbye” isn’t science, though. It’s emotional porn, serving only to arouse emotions and jerk tears.
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