So it's been well over a year since I started and abandoned my exhaustive Michelle Branch catalog review masterpiece. After only two songs I seemed to let the dark side (Tumblr-style posting) fully envelop the blog. I think it's time for some text to come back so I'm going to revamp this wildly unpopular feature.
Last Friday I went to see Michelle Branch record a "Meet the Artist" podcast at the Apple Store in Soho. I dragged WallyChung.com there and I think he hated every second of it. Afterwards we went to a bar and argued about the music industry and pop and the 2000s and I ended up explaining to him my interpretation of Michelle Branch's career path. What makes me think that I'm some kind of expert on it (and why he would care), I have no idea, but I sounded convincing to myself at least. I guess that's what reminded me to jump back into writing my magnum opus, or at the very least, my mashed potato mountain. This means something! This is important!
Back to 2002. We have landed at "All You Wanted," which remains Michelle Branch's highest charting single in the US of Americas. Here's the video:
The video was directed by Liz Friedlander, who also did the clip for "Everywhere." It's the second video that features Michelle focusing her attention on some random scruffy and/or shaggy tall dude. There are a lot of a other similarities to the first video--it starts in her room, she sees herself playing onstage, she never gets the dude--but the production quality has definitely been amplified. More extras, more camera movement, and more rain means more money, so the record label must've felt more confident with Michelle's potential by this point. The gamble paid off as it got more spins on TRL than its predecessor.
Thought I don't traditionally side with the popular vote, I've always preferred "All You Wanted" a little bit more than "Everywhere." I'm not sure why. I wasn't watching much MTV at all back then so it wasn't the Out Of This World-style time-stopping trick that hooked me. I think I'm going to try to get to the bottom of this today.
Both songs start out with arpeggiated chords but "All You Wanted" is more straightforward and robotic. Its rhythm and tone matches the drum machine, which I really want to call "machine-like" but I know that would be redundant. I won't call the beat "industrial" because that would suggest Ministry or Nine Inch Nails which is not what I'm getting at here. How about this... it sounds like an assembly line of kitty litter being scooped up by a plastic scoop? Sounds good to me. The vocals again come in at a logical point and even sound a bit robotic themselves because of their repetitiveness: "I wanted to be like you/I wanted everything/so I tried to be like you." And they don't rhyme this time like this line of mine.
While "Everywhere" would have abruptly shifted the song to rock territory with more deliberate strumming of power chords by now, "All You Wanted" just continues to slowly build. The second half of the first verse adds some louder, yet equally steady drum machine beats, some extra notes into the vocal melody, and a slightly different arpeggio at the end of every other line. This song declares that "when the tide comes I'd take you away" and it's actually going to wait out the six hours instead of hitting us with the rogue wave of "Everywhere." The guitar lead just sort of dreamily whimpers into the chorus.
The chorus is definitely the song's high tide so it's a good thing the scruffy dude is wearing a life vest like Marty McFly's, but despite the action in the video and the pleading in the lyrics, it still feels less in-your-face than "Everywhere's" chorus. I blame the incessant hi-hat ticking. I shouldn't say "blame" really because the steadiness of this song is what sets it apart from the first single. The second verse is looser than the first as the arpeggio now has some upstrokes, Michelle has some upsqueaks, and there's some crazy drum machine shit going on in the background that's a holdover from the chorus, but it still does not approach the dynamic structure of "Everywhere." There's no dramatic stop before the chorus or quick quiet sing-along section and to be honest, I'm happy about that.
The song continues its stable trajectory before finally breaking pace in the last few bars where Michelle repeats a couple lines from an earlier verse, a technique she employs fairly often. Another trademark that appears a lot is Michelle's vocal ad libbing for the final chorus, which is particularly strong here in "All You Wanted." For some reason those vocals and the ones in the bridge remind me of Hanson. Despite sitting through the entire "Mmmbop" video, I can't seem to pinpoint why. I also haven't solved the mystery of why I still like "All You Wanted" more than "Everywhere." I guess it's a secret no one knows.
Although "All You Wanted" peaked higher than "Everywhere" a decade ago, I think the latter has ultimately shown more staying power with the masses. I base this on the fact that I still hear it on the radio more often and it's got nearly twice as many plays on the YouTubes. And that's as scientific as I plan to get for this series.
See you next time, on Nova.