Regina Spektor – “Open”
“Open” is an anxiety attack in a song. The lush piano notes rise and fall gently, subtly building to a gorgeous but understated chorus: “potentially lovely, perpetually human, suspended and open.” It’s a song about vulnerability; being suspended in time and exposed to all of the wonderful – and terrible – things in life. After a flourishing refrain halfway through, the song starts trending dark rather quickly. Spektor starts gasping as if she’s struggling for air, evoking this deeply unsettling feeling that could only be likened to claustrophobia or drowning. She has the vocal power to rein in her gasps and start singing again seconds later, and – no pun intended – it’s breathtaking. The lyrical content also takes a turn from poetic (“In the night, the snow starts falling / And everybody stares, through their windows at the streetlights / Too beautiful to see”) to descriptions of feeling isolated and trapped: “I am in a room I’ve built myself / Four straight walls / One floor, one ceiling.” The song ends on a note of uncertainty, with verses like “Day after day I wake up feeling, feeling…” and “Open up your eyes, and then…”. The entire track builds up to this release that never occurs, it just leaves you suspended with an uneasy/panicked sensation — it’s not necessarily something I want to feel, but this song brings it out in me like no others can.
Spektor is renowned for her endearing quirks, and while 2004’s Soviet Kitsch still holds the bar unreachably high, I’d argue that 2012’s What We Saw From The Cheap Seats – and in particular this song – comes pretty damn close. It’s her best of this decade for its emotional duality (the first half is delicate and beautiful, the second half terrifying) as well as the emotional state that it is able to evoke without ever actually needing to dictate those feelings with words. That’s the incredible thing about Spektor’s oddities and eccentricities – they contribute to the atmosphere of the music without need to employ typical aspects of a song – instruments, lyrics, etc. Here, Spektor uses her voice in ways one wouldn’t expect…and that’s what continues to place her in a class of her own as a songwriter and vocalist.