Australian music has always had a tug at my heart for quite a while now. Maybe it’s because of the authenticity and realness that a lot of Aussies have in general, that I find that to come through in a lot of the music released by Aussies over the years, or maybe it’s just because Australian music is just underrated, and I’m finding that out now. Or maybe it’s because that in a general scheme of things, Australian music isn’t necessarily the most popular or even the most championed out of every other music there is, and thus I as naturally as I am, tend to always advocate for the underdog, and Australian music is just the underdog in a lot of these situations…whatever the case, I’ve been listening to a lot of Australian music recently. From artists like Guy Sebastian, Delta Goodrem, Vanessa Amorosi, Natalie Imbruglia and John Farnham, to Rebecca St. James, For KING AND COUNTRY, Tina Arena, Newsboys, Hillsong and Keith Urban; Australian music has been on my radar for the last year and a half, and while I myself would never have guessed that I’d write so much about Australian artists way back in February 2019 when I started this blogging post series, here I am, in October 2020, and have discovered that sometimes the music of your home country resonates with you, far greater and more than any other music from any other country on the globe. I know that is certainly true of me over this last year and a half- artists like Delta, Guy, for KING AND COUNTRY, even Hillsong recently and the ever-reliable Newsboys, have all reminded myself that sometimes in life, what you can grab onto that is synonymous with the culture of your country (in my own case, the qualities of mateship, camaraderie, having a fair-go, the down-to-earth-ness and the joyous nature that most Aussies share with each other) is what gives us hope that some of the songs written by quite possibly some of the most underrated in modern music, can seep deep within our souls and speak to us on a heart-to-heart level, in a way that maybe only God Himself can communicate. For I’ve long been assumed (not sure how or why I even thought this) that if you’re from the U.S., or if you’re relocated from your country of origin and have moved to the U.S. and you’re making it big over there, then your music is worth listening to, and if you’re not, then…well, next? I know, such a funny, funny assumption to make, and over the years, this has been shattered by the fact that as I’ve heard more and more Australian artists (who haven’t really made it in terms of American standards), I’ve realised that their music is good, maybe even just as so, compared to the artists of America. And herein lies the point, that Australian music, as evidenced within the last year and a bit, will continue to be held in high regard for me, because this is the country that I grew up in, and no matter what other musical genre I listen to, or what other music artist from around the world that I connect to, there’s nothing better than to listen to an artist from the country you were raised in, and hear some of the heartfelt struggles, hopes, dreams and passions that they have expressed in their music, and realise, that maybe, just maybe, you connect with some of the music as well.
Missy Higgins is one such artist that is, by definition, one of the most iconic Australian female singer-songwriters/all-round passionate vocalists I’ve heard in all of the 2000s and the 2010s (I guess the other artists like Delta Goodrem, Vanessa Amorosi, Natalie Imbruglia and Tina Arena, all fit into such a category, and have all been blogged about at some point throughout the last year and a half in this ‘top 100 influential artists’ blog series); and has been a voice over this last week that has reminded myself of the unassuming talent that she is, not just within Australian music today, but unassuming, underrated and poignantly impactful in global modern music history. Yes, I know these assertions and pretty bold and strong, but sometimes, it is when we realise that there is a disconnect, and will always be, between influential and popular, the unassuming and the overpopularized, the over-the-top and the quiet achievers; you can delve deeper into the artists that everyone deems to be forgotten, and understand that there’s gold to be had in the songs of old and new, that this artist that maybe everyone has pushed by the wayside can still turn out to be an artist that influences even now, during a time where music focuses on the new, bright, big, bold and exciting over the thoughtful, compelling, challenging, introspective and heartfelt. Missy Higgins is an artist that burst onto the scene through the unveiling of her 2004 album The Sound of White, and even though in 2020, she hasn’t had a chart-topping album that even comes close to her 2004 debut, her heart for creating music that resonates with the soul is nevertheless still the same. And even though her popularity now isn’t a smidgen to what it once was (people are now taken to the likening of artists like Birds of Tokyo, Kate Miller-Heidke, Sheppard, Tones & I, Troye Sivan, Amy Shark, Sia, and 5 Seconds of Summer, even before they can even think of or even utter the words ‘Missy Higgins’), Missy’s music, especially her iconic and music industry-altering albums The Sound of White (2004) and On a Clear Night (2007), has become a snapshot in time- especially during the 2000s, where Australian artists, especially Australian female artists, took risks and wrote music so special that even a decade could be defined by it- the decade of the 2000s, if uttered to by an Australian, would closely be followed by ‘Born to Try’ (Delta Goodrem), ‘Scar’ (Missy Higgins) and ‘Counting Down the Days’ (Natalie Imbruglia), among many other chart-topping and iconic songs of the proverbial Australian decade.
Missy Higgins may not be remembered by name, but a lot of her songs, by either melody and tune, or by actual title, will be remembered for quite some time yet. And despite only having 5 albums to her name within the span of 16 years (with one album being a covers album), Missy’s ability to write from her deep, emotive, heartfelt and compelling experiences, and somehow make it relatable to pretty much everyone, is something that ought to be commended, as we continue to be in awe of an Aussie artist who deserves much more credit than what she has been getting post-On a Clear Night. This is not necessarily an expose about this song or that song- you can listen to these tracks on youtube or on spotify and maybe gain your own personal understanding yourself, but rather, this blog post (and maybe even blog posts after this one) is more of an appreciation of Missy the artist as a whole, rather than the songs. Yes the songs are good, but the song is only as good as the artist who has crafted them, and as I myself reflect on these artists I’ve delved into for the last year and a half, I’ve realised this one thing- that more often than not, it is the artists personal life, and their outlook and values, that can influence a person, more than maybe the songs themselves. Songs come and go, but what will be remembered at the end of the day, is an artist’s stand on what is true and right, and their own outlook on life that has shaped their melodies and in turn, changed someone else’s life by reminding them that they are not alone. Missy’s songs have a longing and a yearning about them, as she wants for something that may not have been in her grasp, or to rid herself of something she may have thought was beneficial for her to begin with, but now maybe realised that it was destructive all along. Missy first and foremost is a storyteller, and her songs reflect that quality about her, and create a sense of jovialness and joy, even in the songs of lament and pain.
There is an overarching ‘fight’ to these songs by Missy- a sense of her ability to keep going in the eyes of adversity, and how songs for a season can help bring together a generation of people all longing and yearning for a common thing- to be heard, seen, loved without condition, and to all want to matter and mean something in this crazy, chaotic life that we’ve lived in thus far. For it is during the year of 2020 that music has been important to us all, especially during this time of quarantines, lockdown, and COVID-19. And as I myself have listened to the nostalgia of Missy Higgins and her music for a week or so, let me just say that there are a bunch of her songs that I have definitely heard, even if it is only by tune and never by title. Nevertheless, this artist brings back major nostalgia, in a good way, and reminds me of a life once lived that was free from complications and the rise of technology. Where life wasn’t about likes, follows, who you admire from afar on the internet. Where life was more about resonating with songs and challenging yourself to go deep within and see if a song like ‘Steer’, ‘Scar’, ‘The Special Two’, ‘Ten Days’ or even ‘Where I Stood’, can bring to the fore, buried feelings, or make you confront something about your past that you may have dismissed, so that healing, hope, happiness and heartfelt contemplation can take it’s course and change you from your innermost being, out. For such a discography as Missy’s, and all of the impactful songs she has created, even now from her 2018 album Solastalgia; can only be deduced as some of her tracks being God-breathed (even if she doesn’t even know it herself). For as I’ve firmly believed that God Himself can use whatever medium we know He can, to draw people closer to Himself, and for people to find things about themselves they may not have known (good or bad), Missy’s melodies of honesty allow us to be honest with ourselves, and understand that there are some artists, Australian or otherwise, that have a certain gift of using their song-writing ability to create melodies that change the fabric of not only people’s lives, but of the music industry as a whole, period. Missy is one such artist, to be applauded, respected, and listened to, at least once in your life!
‘…I just can’t believe how long it’s been. I mean, look at a song like [first single] ‘Greed for Your Love’ – to me, that just feels like a lifetime ago. I wrote it while I was on my gap year after I left high school, backpacking around Europe. I wrote a few songs on this beaten-up old acoustic guitar I’d brought with me, and that was one of them. That was, of course, before I accidentally left the guitar in Spain in the overhead compartment of a train. Some of those early songs are so childish – and I understand; I was a child, after all. At the same time, you’ve got to look back on them with fondness. They tell the story of where I was at that point in my life. I feel like all of my songs, by extension, are reflective of that. They pinpoint certain moments for me. I look at all my songs and all my albums, and it feels like this one big diary…’
One glance through the albums Missy has created and has released to the world thus far, and your eyes immediately gravitate to the 2004 album The Sound of White, an album that is as iconic in Missy’s history as a musician, as it is iconic in Australian music during the 2000s, period. The Sound of White garnered Missy onto the big stage, allowing her to be basically an overnight sensation, with Missy herself winning the 2005 Aria Awards for Best Female Artist, Best New (Breakthrough) Artist, Best Album of the Year, Best Pop Album of the Year, and the Highest Selling Album of the Year, all in 2005. ‘Scar’, Missy’s first single (and quite possibly her most recognised, even to this day), was nominated for ‘Single of the Year’ in 2004, and actually won for the 2004 Best Pop Release (Song). For an artist to accomplish all that, within her first year of being signed to a label (Eleven Records, of which she is still tied to now, a record label that is indeed home to a plethora of popular Aussie artists, from Birds of Tokyo, Cold Chisel and Midnight Oil, to Silverchair, Gotye, and Missy herself!), is nothing more than extraordinary, and dare I say, miraculous and maybe even God-ordained? There’s something special about the 2004 album release of The Sound of White, and even to this day, when hearing her songs in 2020, her 2004 debut album is always an album that even I go back to- it’s just so cohesive, raw, unfiltered and honest, something that was refreshingly needed in the Australian music industry around the time of Missy’s debut album release in the mid-2000s. She was (and still is) considered an Australian icon very quickly upon the release of The Sound of White, and songs like ‘Scar’, ‘The Special Two’, ‘Ten Days’, ‘All For Believing’, ‘The Sound of White’ and ‘Don’t Ever’, all impacted the general public at one point or another throughout the next few years. And looking back on it now, it’s no wonder an artist like Missy, delivering the songs as she did on 2004’s The Sound of White, is still considered an Australian icon and someone to look up to in the music industry, even to this day in 2020, though she’s not as active musically as she once was.
‘Scar’, Missy’s most recognisable song, is about conforming to society’s expectations about you, and wanting so much to be accepted by what is a societal norm, that you become manipulated, woven and shaped into something that you maybe weren’t even all along, and like how the song suggests, that a triangle tries to fit into a circle, the world itself tries to tell us what we ought and should be so that people can see someone who doesn’t go against the grain, someone who isn’t too loudly spoken and who isn’t someone who challenges the status quo. And while the song itself was rumoured to be about Missy’s admission of her bisexuality, it was never confirmed, and ‘Scar’ the song can still be broadly applicable to other people without being about sexuality in general. We all have scars in our lives that maybe we don’t necessarily like- physical, mental and emotional, but often it is these scars that remind us of what we’ve gone through and the things we’ve learnt along the way. ‘The Special Two’, a song not as familiar to people who hear Missy’s work (but still nevertheless familiar in tune to me when I heard it last week for the first time since…I dunno, the mid-2000s?), is a song of lament but also looking forward to what is ahead, where Missy contemplates a relationship that has ended and the subsequent fall into a deep depression thereafter. Later revealed to be a song written for her sister, as an apology-of-sorts, after it was revealed that she liked a boy that Missy also liked, but the boy went out with Missy instead; ‘The Special Two’, initially thought of by myself to be a bond between girlfriends/boyfriends/spouses etc. was in fact about a bond between siblings and especially sisters, and how nothing can come between a relationship as true, real and special as sisters, even if it is a boy that both sisters ‘like’.
Missy’s two standout tracks from The Sound Of White form the pinnacle of not only the 2004 album but really remind us of Missy’s influence throughout the earlier half of her music career. Amongst the many other standouts on The Sound of White, we see melodies that really challenge our perceptions and perspectives on the human condition and really delve into discussing topics rarely talked about in 2020 society as a whole. ‘All For Believing’ was a song Missy wrote at 15 for a high school music assignment and speaks of this notion of believing things that on the surface seem trivial or not even worth believing in the first place, while ‘Don’t Ever’ allows for perseverance and determination to take hold of Missy as she longs for a relationship on the rocks to continue to go from on-the-brink to mended. ‘Ten Days’, a song inspired by Missy’s breakup with a boyfriend during that time, can be interpreted in a myriad of ways- on a surface level, about a girl singing to a guy, that after a breakup, she still can’t shake him and declares that he’s still her home even though she wants to forget. Or the song can be about losing a friend or a loved one, either to death or to them moving away, across the country or even across the world. The song can yet again be interpreted in a way where we Australians are the ones far from home, either travelling for work, or having an extended stay in another country, and missing our home country of Australia. For such songs written by Missy (and songs in extension written by a lot of Aussie artists and just artists with tremendous influence and impact rather than popularity), we are reminded of just how talented these singer-songwriter musicians are, and how much needed they are in a society that unfortunately places more emphasis on pop jingles than heartfelt music that digs down deep to the heart of issues and topics that need to be discussed in today’s climate, but aren’t. The title track of Missy’s 2004 album is yet another standout song, one that is littered with metaphors that for me, aren’t necessarily deciphered within the first listen- and even now, I’m still having trouble. But from what I do know, this song is one of lament, with the persona missing this person who has gone away- either gone away to another physical place; or has died and gone to heaven. The sound of white is in reference to trying to listen to the heavens or even something divine, as Missy longs for connection with this person who is gone. A reminder to always cherish relationships right now when we have them, rather than to wait to when the person is not around to realise what we may not have cultivated; ‘The Sound of White’ the song, and the album, are indeed a great part of Australian 2000s history, not just within music, but across the history of our nation as well.
As we glance through the rest of Missy’s sparse and storied discography- 4 more albums across the timespan of 16 more years within the realms of music; we see a young girl creating songs of honesty and hopeful optimism, turn into a woman of wisdom and a refined way of having an ability to use her words to convey feelings of introspection and contemplation amidst the heavy musings of everyday life, coupled with sometimes the whimsical and joyous instrumentation that seem to embody a lot of her later material. Her 2007 album, On a Clear Night, though not as chart-topping or even as well known as The Sound of White, nevertheless gives us songs about relationships, confidence and empowerment, topics that aren’t necessarily discussed at length throughout the music industry (even the Australian music industry) of today. ‘Where I Stood’, quite possibly one of the most emotive and heartfelt songs, not just from On a Clear Night, but throughout her whole music career thus far; speaks of a persona who has placed so much of themselves, their time, efforts, passions, maybe even an identity, in a certain person, and then when a relationship ends for whatever unexpected reason, they don’t know who they are anymore, because a lot of what was done with their time, was for the other person. ‘Where I Stood’ is a realisation/’find yourself’ track, a song where the persona realises they can’t fully love someone when you feel as though your identity is wrapped up in them, and you lose your own concept of who you believe you are in the process. ‘100 Round the Bend’, masked as an upbeat acoustically driven, jovial and boppy track, is anything but as we listen to the heartfelt lyrics- again about a relationship gone sour and disintegrating, possibly due to certain actions this persona has done, and then realising that it is too far down the road to even turn back and try to salvage what could be of a relationship where trust between two people is broken- and thus the metaphor of going ‘100’ around a bend, is the persona trying all they can to make the relationship speed towards its end, because…why keep it going when it’s too far-gone to even turn back and try to put pieces back together?
‘Sugarcane’, a song with plenty of metaphors, speaks of the potential of someone who is possibly destined to do great things in life, but struggles to even try, because of the humility that comes through other people, to this persona, through this notion of tall poppy syndrome. The song itself encourages the sugarcanes to grow tall, and reminds us all to reach for our own dreams, but yet still understand how cruel humans can be- we humans bring people down to earth, often crushing their own dreams in hopes of elevating ours, because maybe we just feel threatened that they can become something that we can’t. ‘Secret’ alludes to the past relationships between Missy and other girls in the past, and this understanding that these girls (or maybe even Missy herself) were either closeted, or even thought that it wasn’t the ‘right’ thing to do. While this song certainly leaves no sentence up for interpretation when it comes to discussing about the difficulties of same-sex relationships when one person in the relationship isn’t as open or even publicly acknowledging their own relationship status; ‘Secret’ can still be about something other than same-sex relationships and the trials that come with that- there are millions of other secrets that people have, that they feel like they can’t share with people, or try desperately to try to hide: addictions, anger issues, narcissistic behaviour; ‘Secret’ reminds us all to be honest with each other, even if the initial aftermath of it can cause harm instead of the intended good to be open and free of hiding. Missy also brings to the fore, songs like ‘Warm Whispers’ and ‘The Wrong Girl’, the former being about the loss of someone either through death or a divorce of a relationship, but still wanting the closeness of the other person through these ‘warm whispers’, even though it cannot necessarily be possible; while the latter is the relationship ending for whatever reason, and the disappointment that comes from analysing what went wrong, and the loneliness that comes from being apart, maybe even for good.
‘Peachy’ is a song sung directly from a persona to their ex, wondering if life itself without them is really peachy or if that is just what is said to avoid going deeper to realise that breakups hurt both people involved instead of just one, whilst ‘Going North’, a song not inspired by any relationship of any kind, is from the POV of someone trying to find themselves away from the city and the hustle and bustle, something that we as people need to realise that sometimes we have to disconnect from the concrete jungle for a while, and figure out if who we are is really who we want to be, and if we even like who we are in the first place. But for me a song that really spoke to me from Missy’s second album is ‘Steer’- a reminder that we often have the power to move the steering wheel of our life, and to not let things get to us, bog us down, or believe that we are to be in the same mundane routine for the rest of our lives because….well, because that’s what we’ve been doing for a long time? ‘Steer’ challenges us all to take a look at our own lives to see what needs changing, and if we don’t like a certain aspect of how we live, then we need to make a step into a direction we believe we should be going. ‘Steer’ brings the power back to us, something we so often miss if we are living a life that is as mundane as we can sometimes feel.
The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle, OZ and Solastalgia released in 2012, 2014 and 2018 respectively, and while I myself haven’t really listened to much of the later discography compared to her earlier material, Missy’s ability to present songs that tug at the heart isn’t wasted on these 3 recent albums- The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle went quickly to #1 on the ARIA Charts upon release in June 2012- making the album her 3rd #1 on the Australian charts to date (only four other females Australian artists have had more #1 charting albums on the ARIA charts than her- Delta Goodrem, Kyle Minogue, Kasey Chambers and Olivia Newton-John). Songs like ‘Set Me On Fire’, ‘Everyone’s Waiting’, ‘Unashamed Desire’, ‘All In My Head’, ‘Temporary Love’ and ‘If I’m Honest’, are songs that have stood out for people (myself included) over the years since her 2012 initial release, and while I for one didn’t feel as if the musical undertones feel as organic as it did during Missy’s 2004 and 2007 albums, The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle is a great way of experimenting and seeing what works and what doesn’t. Though the music itself is very much a unique departure from her 2000s albums, this big leap back into music after a lengthy stay away (5 years) has been met with songs tied to themes of rebirth and starting again. ‘Set Me On Fire’, the song Missy wrote to rid herself from writers block, alludes to this notion that the understanding of music, and the impact of music on a soul, led Missy herself to really understand why she was creating what she was creating, and that more often than we know it, the reason why we do things, can be shown to us, through us seeing the impact it has on other people- then and only then, we can attest and stand by the emotive lyrics of how ‘…you’re the only one that saves me, out of the cold you take me, set me on fire…’ ‘Unashamed Desire’, a song that allows people to realise that to be different and anti-conforming to what society thinks of us, is something worth understanding and being ok with; is something deep, close and personal to Missy- her identity as being bisexual, often comes with a lot of misunderstanding, shame and maybe even ridicule. A general rule of thumb, bisexual people often get a bad rapt, because people often wonder why these people don’t ‘pick’ a side, instead of just being all encompassing and gravitating to both genders in terms of being attracted to someone. ‘Everyone’s Waiting’ further expounds on this anti-conformity message of the album as a whole, as Missy invites us into the inner turmoil of a persona who seems to do everything for someone else, to put on a show and on a plastic façade for people that lose themselves and their identity in the process, not doing things for them, but for other people instead. People-pleasing is a real thing that people deny that they are- but in reality, we feel the need to impress and be something we’re not, all for the name of acceptance and being loved as we think others want us to be.
‘Temporary Love’ presents this topic of acknowledging certain ‘loves’ in our lives that are indeed temporary, and reassessing whether these ‘loves’ should be temporary or not, or even whether its love that we feel for this thing/person/circumstance or if it’s something else (lust, intimacy, affection, respect, admiration, etc.); while ‘All In My Head’ is a challenge set before us that we must look at- that at the end of something, be it a romantic relationship or otherwise, can we really say that what we have experienced (or even long to again) was all in our heads- not mattering in the grand scheme of things; or is this feeling we have felt for time gone by, something we must hold onto for us to remember the good times we’ve had? ‘If We’re Honest’ looks at an unfortunate turn of events for a relationship, where someone has moved on in a relationship, while the persona still can’t shake the feeling they still have for them, and that honesty comes in the form of how they still admit that no one else loves them the way this person did. It is in these songs that Missy herself has reminded us that it is the honest tracks, no matter how unpopular they are in the sight of ‘pop’ music, that a heart can be transformed and a generation can be impacted, far more than the empty songs that are played on the radio on a constant basis.
Solastalgia was unveiled to us in 2018, four years after OZ (an album recorded entirely of covers of songs written and sung by a lot of Aussie indie artists gone before), as Missy placed her own spin on classic songs by Australian artists, from all throughout modern Australian music history. While I for one have been totally unfamiliar with any of the original recordings of the songs from OZ, what I did hear (Missy’s interpretations), is a great reminder that sometimes old songs can be brought to life again by a newer artist; as people appreciate the tracks that maybe they themselves grew up with when they were younger, being sung by someone else, so as to encourage people from a different demographic to hear these songs and see the timelessness of them. A song like ‘Blackfella/Whitefella’ is still very much needed and poignant in 2020, as we see on a global scale, the racial divide between different groups of people, in a variety of western 1st world settings; while ‘Don’t Believe Anymore’ speaks of how the persona in said song, feels like they don’t believe in…well what? God? A relationship? Humanity in general? The ambiguous message leaves much up in the air, but nevertheless, what this song reminds us of, is this notion of unbelief after a period of time where belief in things and people and maybe God Himself, was evidently seen in someone’s life. A reminder to check ourselves to see if what we’re really believing, about ourselves, other people and even God Himself, is really warranted, or even believed because others believe it and not necessarily ourselves; ‘Don’t Believe Anymore’, though not a single from OZ, nevertheless challenged myself to be more proactive in my own beliefs, instead of flowing with the wind and believing things because others do…and then came Solastalgia in 2018, a whole 6 years after an album by Missy of all-new material. While Missy herself relayed to us all about depression and burnout that she experienced throughout much of the 2010s (resulting in one album of all-new material in The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle in 2012, between the sophomore album On a Clear Night and the comeback album of Solastalgia); Solastalgia is nevertheless a reminder that even after a long break that Missy herself had, albums can still be unveiled and released, that have deep meaning and heart, even after a long time of inaction and musical hiatus.
A far cry from the organic pop of her youth, gone are the whimsical joyous melodies of yesteryear, and in its place on Solastalgia is that of EDM, or even some darker elements of indie pop-rock, a sign that Missy herself is trying her hand at music she hasn’t really delved into before, and for the most part, the album works. ‘Starting Again’ is almost a quasi-spiritual experience depicted by Missy- this understanding that by having a child and being a mother, you get an insight into a realm of being that is more in tune with people who are going through a sense of rebirth, a rejuvenation, and a reawakening of priorities and what is important in life. Missy allows for us to understand that to connect with someone who is going through something like a realignment in life, is something of a good thing, for when we can empathise with other people going through such transformation, we can come to terms with the fact that maybe, we need such a metamorphosis and alteration in our own lives too. ‘Cemetery’, one of the most pop songs on Solastalgia; is a song about trying to forget a love that has happened before, but still can’t because of the fact that this love that happened, tied a lot of fond memories to it, but nevertheless on the whole was a relationship that was exhilarating, exciting, but also dangerous and reckless too. ‘Cemetery’ refers to the moments in someone’s past with another that were, for lack of a better term, unusual in character, and for such an experience as this, this persona wants all the memories and moments to be out of their head. Missy also presents unique themes and an exciting musical backdrop in a variety of other musical offerings here on this album. ‘Futon Couch’ is perhaps one of the most jovial pop songs Missy has recorded, and catalogues her love story between her and her husband, and plays it out in song- ‘…this is the happiest song on the record. It is the story of me meeting my husband in Broome…this single tracks the beginning of our relationship and follows it into an unknown future…’; while ‘Red Moon’ paints a dystopic vision of a future ridden by climate change and a living scenario where the simpler times of ‘…before the flood, before the levee came down…’ are sung about with a sense of lament and longing of the persona to go back to those days when live was less complicated.
‘How Was I to Know’ is a song about realising that the work that often we do, so tirelessly and thanklessly, is just a way for people step from A to B- what we do in our work, home life, and everything else in between, can be in some ways futile and maybe not as satisfying in the end of us. For more times than not, people can see what we do as a means to an end- they’ll use our expertise, our advice, our hard work, and travel from A to B, as a means of climbing a corporate ladder, or even a social one, and once they are there on the other side, rubbing shoulders with other people, they leave us in the dust, only then us even knowing that what we’ve done was to move this person from a low level to high level, and us feeling used and taken for granted, in the process. ‘Yesterday Must Die’ is a sobering look about life, and how when we try to embrace tomorrow and all that it has for us to step into, we must first say goodbye to yesterday, and realise that things often have to die, for new life and rebirth to occur and happen- a metaphorical way of reminding ourselves that in order to press on and live well in this life, we first must face our own demons and make amends with people (say sorry to people or even forgive others) so that we can heal and let others heal, as we press on and live life to the fullest.
‘Hallucinate’ is again another sobering song about asking questions that often we don’t necessarily have the answers for, but nevertheless asking them anyway to spur on discussions, and as Missy herself relays the meaning behind the song, we see that ‘…‘Hallucinate’ is about all the questions that I found myself asking myself and asking the universe once I’d woken up to the fact that we might not be heading in the best direction. The fact that I’d had a child a year earlier meant that I was very anxious and looking into his future and going ‘What are the answers? What should I do to protect this future for him? What’s my responsibility as a human?’ The lyrics are ‘tell me the answer, tell me the truth’; I guess it’s a song about suddenly awakening…’ ’49 Candles’, a social justice song about the aftermath of the Orlando 2016 gay nightclub shooting and the inaction thereafter about what could’ve been done to stop these shootings (and a general sense of inaction to handle this issue of gun violence in general!), reminds us all to check ourselves to see what we are doing to make sure we can educate ourselves to love people better and to try to regulate guns in the safest ways we know we can; whilst ‘Strange Utopia’ is about waking up to the knowledge and understanding that such a utopia that we’ve been led to believe that we live in (such a technological age with promised living conditions for all) is indeed strange and isn’t how we have perceived it to be in the first place. ‘The Old Star’ rounds out Solastalgia with a sad notion of a reality that may still be if the environment continues to go the way it does- the song it self is set deep into the future, with the song itself depicting that life is never the same when you scan for environmental change (in a positive way) and then realise that years have gone and past and the environment is raped and pillaged beyond repair, so all such scans will come up empty and in vain. ‘The Old Star’ employs also an EDM structure, as Missy sings with a sense of lament in her voice, an indication that such a song may have been written with a sense of finality in mind, hopefully encouraging us to keep pressing on to find sustainable solutions in life, before such themes present here on Solastalgia don’t come to fruition any time soon.
Though Missy Higgins has 5 albums to her name within the span of 16 years, we have nevertheless been blessed to hear a myriad and variety of other songs from Missy- either from EPs gone by, or just standalone singles over the years. ‘Stuff & Nonsense’, from the rare iTunes exclusive EP Where I Stood unveiled in 2007 (as promotion for her single ‘Where I Stood’), is a cover of the original Split Enz song (first unveiled in 1979) and discusses about this issues and understanding that as much as we can try, we can’t really promise much about the future if we don’t know it. We can promise the love we have for another, for now, but as the song suggests, the future is all ‘stuff and nonsense’, not that we don’t make plans for said future, but realise that future in a general term is uncertain, and we’d have to be ok with things changing on a constant day-to-day basis. Missy’s own experience during the years with Burning Man, a religious-like festival held annually in the U.S., led to the song ‘We Ride’ being created, which was in turn used for the movie Spark: A Burning Man’s Story and placed on its soundtrack, while ‘Oh Canada’ tackles head on the issues of refugees and boat people, people who come to another country illegally because they themselves feel as though they have no other choice in the matter. Inspired by the plight of a 3 year old boy, belonging to a family wanting to emigrate from Syria to Canada; the song itself speaks of how sometimes desperation makes people to drastic things for a sense of freedom they long for in another country. ‘Torchlight’, written by Missy for the 2017 movie Don’t Tell, speaks about this issue about evil hidden in plain sight with regards to the justice people seek from the church, for horrific and unspeakable things done to them in the name of God and the church over the years. A song that challenges the system and status quo, we are reminded that even in the most respected institutions/religions, there can still be evil lurking about, masking themselves with a light of good and destroying everything, people included, in its wake. ‘Arrows’, a song that premiered as part of Missy’s 2018 album The Special Ones (a compilation album), was originally written by Missy for her husband for their wedding day, and recorded for the album, just a few days before her daughter was born. The song itself is about who in life, things, circumstances, and scenarios point towards something- be it a path we ought to take in life, or towards our future husband/wife/partner/best friend. Whatever the case, arrows and the direction we’re going, remind us all that life isn’t at random, and that God uses arrows, signs, anything that He wants, to bring people towards each other and towards Him throughout this life where we realise that things aren’t are chaotic as they seem. ‘Carry You’ and ‘Song For Sammy’ are the other two remaining songs that have stood out for me that don’t belong to an album (thus far!)- the former being a song initially by fellow Aussie singer-songwriter Tim Minchin, and speaks about the importance of carrying someone with us in our hearts- never forgetting them, especially when the someone is somewhere else and not with us for whatever reason- be it for work, or just in another country, living their lives and not with us in a romantic sense, or even (and hopefully not) passed on and not with us physically, but dead before their time. ‘Song For Sammy’ is another emotional song by Missy- written for her son Sammy a long time ago when he was a young wee baby, but recorded in 2019 for Mothers Day. As Missy herself relays, ‘…it’s a song about the crazy extreme emotions that come with being a parent for the first time. The feeling that you would do ANYTHING for this kid, which is at once exhilarating and terrifying. Suddenly your heart is ripped open and exposed to all the elements. Vulnerable but so, so alive. Exhausted but drunk on love. Acutely aware of all the children in the world and how that is, actually, every single person. How every man is somebody’s son, every woman is somebody’s daughter. And how realising that, changes everything. Anyone that’s been coming to my shows knows that I’ve been playing this song live for quite a while now, and I’ve wanted to release it but it’s never quite been the right time. And I realise too now, that having a song for Sammy I’ll have to write one for Luna or there’ll be some serious sibling rivalry going on one day and I ain’t paying for those therapy fees! So perhaps that’ll be next, watch this space…’
Missy’s music has been a bright spark in people’s lives all these years, and even though I initially thought that I wouldn’t be as familiar with Missy’s music as I now know that I currently am, I am understanding and realising that even though you don’t necessarily know the song by name or even by its artist, sometimes a song creeps up on you (in a good way) through it’s melody, and that is exactly what a lot of Missy’s songs over the years have done. Songs like ‘Scar’, ‘Steer’, ‘The Special Two’, ‘Where I Stood’, ’10 Days’, even ‘Peachy’ and ‘The Sound of White’, have all been songs over the years that I have committed their melody to memory and placed in a box to never be opened…until now that is, and all the nostalgia floods back in the best way possible. Missy’s music has a sense of being a therapy session whenever we hear it, and while many of her albums moved and swayed in a musical sense- especially Solastalgia that moved leaps and bounds musically and stylistically; the passionate essence of her message has still remained for all these years. Missy is a storyteller, first and foremost, and her songs reflect this fact about her, as we see melodies that have come from the innermost parts of herself, then birthed to the masses, to become an artist I reckon that is very much underappreciated, even undervalued, especially during this musical climate of now. Even within the confines of Australian music, Missy’s music isn’t as popular now as it once was, and maybe that’s ok. For during her height of fame and popularity, Missy was everywhere- two albums of heartfelt emotion and poignancy, and Missy landed her first movie role in the Australian iconic movie Bran Nu Dae, which starred Aussie singer-songwriter Jessica Mauboy, as well as Aussie acting legend Geoffrey Rush, and Aboriginal icon, Ernie Dingo. And while Missy’s role in the movie wasn’t that pronounced, we are nevertheless reminded that being talented in the arts doesn’t necessarily mean that you’d have to be confined to the artistry you started in, in the beginning- many singer-songwriters try their hand and acting at one point or another in their lives, and vice versa. Missy’s ability over the years, be it in movies or music, to present a body of work with fervent honesty and a sense of enthusiasm and grace, is what has made myself become more and more intrigued with Missy’s music, and in effect, with music from artists who aren’t necessarily as well-known to people outside their respective country, or even their respective musical genre. And that in and of itself is a good, good thing. For Missy’s influence over the years hasn’t been tremendous (like a lot of artists I’ve written about in this blog series), but nevertheless, still impacting a lot of other musical artists on their own personal journeys- from Amy Shark, Odette, and Alice Skye, to Gretta Ray and Gordi (and yes, I did have to google all these names- except for Amy Shark, to see who these people were).
And it is in this understanding that Missy herself has influenced other music artists, not necessarily in the mainstream, but indie; that I can take comfort in the fact that it is ok for artists to not be as ‘mainstream’ as people believe that they should- for artists to only impact their niche is still ok. Missy’s target audience is soulful-acoustic pop (I reckon). Albums like The Sound of White and On A Clear Night resonated much more for me than her more recent albums. She’s not as popular now as Delta Goodrem, and maybe that’s for the best. Her down to earth demeanor in interviews suggests her vulnerability and reminds us all of the humanness of celebrities and that we don’t have to idolise them as much as we do. And it is in all these statements where I find myself confident of Missy’s inclusion here on this blog post series list. And while people may question the validity of Missy on my Top 100 Influential Artists list; what I will say is this- Missy’s ability to hit to the core of our questions (‘Where I Stood’, ‘Steer’, ‘The Special Two’) is nothing less than a gift she’s been given- and be it through hard work or blessings from the divine, Missy’s songs have ministered to people around the world for so long over the years, allowing people to be in touch with their feelings, and to delve deep within and challenge their own psyches. And if one person can be impacted by an acoustic/pop artist (and an Australian one at that!), then the artist has done its job. For Missy’s presence in an industry right now that seems to spit out the artists, they chew in the first place; is something to be welcomed and respected thing. And who knows, hopefully the rest of the world can pick up how intuitive and talented Missy really is. But even if that doesn’t happen, what I know is this – Missy’s talent, especially in the 2000s, leaves nothing to be desired. There’s a reason why The Sound of White is as popular as it has been for Missy. Who knows, maybe another thematically similar The Sounds of White: Part 2 in the future? Only time will tell!
Does Missy Higgins and her music make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song, like ‘Scar’, ‘The Special Two’, ‘Steer’ or ‘Set Me On Fire’; that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!