“Why doesn’t it get better with time?”, a forlorn Regina Spektor asks God. The two are sitting down at a bar across from a corner deli, beers in hand. You might not have taken God for the drinking type, but it was actually his idea. After encountering her while she was walking home one night, he suggests that the two grab a beer and relax a bit. That’s about where God’s portion of the dialogue ends, however; he strikes up this fun idea, and then leaves Regina alone with her thoughts. “Let the ones who want it bad get all the things that make them better”, she wishes. Then, as if talking to a wall: “Let the ones who don’t care feel a thrill.” You can sense the desperation in her voice growing with each verse. On the other side of the table, an expressionless face stares onward, refusing to respond. “And I just want to ride, but this whole world — it makes me carsick” Regina continues, at this point probably aware that God has completely tuned her out. “I’m becoming all alone again…stay” she pleads. As the camera pans out, Spektor indeed finds herself completely alone again. By the end of the song, the dialogue is reversed: this time it’s Spektor seeking God out, asking him to join her for a beer while singing “It’s awful late…I know you’re here.” No response is given, and he never shows.
The lyrics tell a rather simple story, but it’s a moving one. In many ways, it’s a two-sided observation of religion: on one side, there’s the sense of abandonment that so many faithful (or formerly faithful) people feel when their pleas go unanswered and their compassion is never reciprocated by the God they so devoutly follow; then on the other side, there’s the question of delusion – was God ever even there? Was Spektor talking to herself the whole time? The song wisely chooses not to disclose the answer, leaving it open to interpretation.
These sort of compelling stories have always been the bedrock of Regina’s craft, and ‘Becoming All Alone” is yet another classic entry into her canon. The lyrics serve as an inadvertent continuation of the themes presented on ‘Laughing With’ from 2009’s Far, which observed how one’s view of God can change depending on the situation (humorous in the form of a cocktail party punchline, but far more serious in dire situations like war or illness). ‘Laughing With’ easily ends up being the more thoughtful and interesting of the two track however, thus suggesting that ‘Becoming All Alone’ could have asked better questions than the age-old and overly simplistic ones (“is God real / are we alone?”). With that said, few artists would be able to pull off these tired questions with as much creativity and conviction as Spektor does on here, which allows ‘Becoming All Alone’ to qualify as a storytelling success in spite of its relatively limited lyrical scope.
Musically, ‘Becoming All Alone’ burgeons with cinematic orchestration. Sweeping strings and ghostly choirs comprise a gorgeously captivating backdrop, allowing Regina’s voice to levitate and for the entire song to feel larger than life…not unlike the questions indirectly posed by her lyrics. Still, the song’s most personal moments are still afforded the bare canvas they deserve: Spektor’s angelic voice and a faint trickle of classical piano notes. When combined together, ‘Becoming All Alone’ manages to be both candid/intimate and well as celebratory and magnificent.
As a lead single for her upcoming LP Home, before and after, I’m not sure that Spektor could have done much better than this. ‘Becoming All Alone’ takes everything we love about Regina and wraps it all up in one momentous, string-swept existential crisis. It’s done a near perfect job of building expectations and setting the stage for the next chapter in Spektor’s discography. Until then, I’ll just be happy to keep spinning this gem on repeat.
Sputnik Singles Chart:
- Yeule – “Too Dead Inside” (3.5)
- Bad Omens – “Like A Villain” (3.0)
- Muse – “Won’t Stand Down” (2.5)
- Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Black Summer” (2.3)
- Avril Lavigne – “Bite Me” (2.3)
- Shinedown – “Planet Zero” (2.2)
- Grimes – “Shinigami Eyes” (2.0)
now I'm rejamming her whole discog which is always the sweetest treat