When the Lights Go Out (W6)

I am writing my essay on the album Lights Out by Ingrid Michaelson. Lights Out is her sixth album, and it’s my favorite. It was released in 2014, shortly after her mother passed away. I chose to write about this album because I want to explore the emotions behind the songs and see how the events in her life correspond to the songs on the album.

I’ve seen Ingrid live three times, but my favorite of these shows was a small performance (I’m talking fifty people) at a salon. The salon was owned by her friend Heather, who started an Indiegogo fund to get her business started. One of the prizes on the Indiegogo was an intimate show with Ingrid Michaelson if you donated one hundred dollars to her salon. My cousin and I spent all of our respective birthday money on tickets to the show. We stood right in the front and sang along to every song, and afterwards we got to take pictures with her and all of the members of the band. She was so sweet to us and she made us feel like we were friends, not fans. It was one of the best nights of my life.

About a month later, I saw a link to an article on Twitter about Ingrid’s new album. It talked about how she had been going through a tough time in her life: she had been depressed and would not talk about her feelings to her family or her friends (this was before her mother’s death). It was crazy to me that I had seen her live and even spoken to her when she was going through this time in her life. She had been so kind to us; we could not even tell that she was feeling lousy. She decided to pour her emotions, happy and sad, into her upcoming album. When she was almost finished, her mother passed away, and it threw her for a loop. I think that’s why we find both happy, optimistic lyrics (“I’m a little bit down but I’m not dead yet, there’s a little bit more that has to be said” –Girls Chase Boys) and lyrics about heartbreak and loss (“Go quiet now, go sound, go safe, open hands are hard to hold onto anyway” –Open Hands).

It’s amazing to listen to what seems like two different albums in one; I think that’s why I enjoy it so much. In one of the last songs on the album, Afterlife, one of the lyrics is “Every time I close my eyes I hear your favorite song, telling me not to run, not to worry anymore.” I love the way that this is a sad, meaningful lyric about her mother, but it is set to upbeat music; Afterlife is the album’s anthem.

A short while after Lights Out was released, I saw another article on Twitter that said that she and her husband, Greg Laswell (who is featured on the track “Wonderful Unknown”), got a divorce. Naturally, my cousin and I texted frantically wondering how in the world our favorite couple decided to split. Since they are both songwriters, we didn’t think that it was because of her long hours in the recording studio. It was a mystery to us, especially because her mother had passed away so recently. One would think that a death in the family would be all the more reason for her husband to stay by her side.

I then thought about the lyrics to Ingrid’s song “Stick” off her new album. “There’s a part of you that stays with me, someone else gets to know, did any of me stick at all?” Maybe she felt that Greg was no longer paying attention to her, or that she wasn’t impacting his life the way he was impacting hers. It’s interesting to me to see these seemingly random lyrics actually connect to Ingrid’s experiences. That’s why I picked this particular album for my essay. Not only is it my favorite of her six albums, but I see it as the most relevant to her life at the time. I think it embodies life as a whole; the ups and downs that everyone goes through are clearly present within the different tracks. The main theme I gather from Lights Out is that your life can turn upside down in an instant, just as quickly as the lights can go out.

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