I was thinking recently about optimistic songs, once again. I’ve written about some of them before of course in my 10 Songs of Optimism article. And it struck me that I could have chosen nearly any song of Ron Sexsmith’s for that list. One of his key strengths is putting a positive spin on a bad situation in song, while not making that spin sound trite, or disrespectful of the dark side of things which are just as important. I think it’s one of the elements which makes him a great songwriter; he’s got enough respect for the complexities of the human experience to write about it seriously, without the fashionable miserablism which often goes along with that. It’s refreshing not to hear another singer-songwriter banging on about how depressing life can be. There are times when that kind of writing is cathartic, of course. But, that takes a certain kind of talent too, to strike the fine line between creating catharsis, and just being a self-indulgent whiner or worse; a phony.
With Sexsmith’s work, there is a sense that we’re all in this together whatever it is, that what is common among human beings is our uncertainty. And from here, we can take this as a call to arms to seek out our own meaning, or we can weaken to bitterness. But, as he says in another song of his, “Listen”, taken from his 2005 album with Don Kerr Destination Unknown:
“Listen to that inner voice/Telling me I have a choice/to condemn life or rejoice/I think I’ll choose rejoicing”.
And that choice really what it’s all about if nothing else, isn’t it?
For further reading, check out this interview with Ron Sexsmith. And for more music and information, check out Ron Sexsmith’s MySpace page.