It's Just a Ride

Let me introduce this post by saying: find some place to be alone for 10 minutes. 10 minutes 14 seconds to be exact. This song, The Ride by Amanda Palmer is bound to bring some pretty powerful emotions to the surface. So go find a corner, maybe bring a box of tissues, and hit play: (a quick word of warning: She drops the F-bomb at 6:20, so hit mute for a second if you're averse to such language)

This song was featured on NPR's All Songs Considered podcast on February 12. When I heard it that day, I had the thought "That was a good song, and I'm glad I heard it and had that experience, but it's not a song I need in my library, but I'm glad I heard it." But the song just wouldn’t leave me alone. It's become an ear worm in the last 10 days, but in such a good way, and I had to write something about it.

The song is all about fear, and the ups and downs in life we all experience using a roller coaster ride as a metaphor to express the idea. The music perfectly reflects this in a waltz with an ascending and descending scale. Before she wrote the song, Amanda asked her fans on her Patreon website to tell her something they were afraid of in 50 words or less. They responded with 1,183 comments. On the list are things like the fear of dying, parents dying, inability to have children, losing a child, breaking up, finding new love. She wrote the song in 36 hours after reading those comments (which itself took her 3 hours) posted in response to her request. She told the NPR hosts in an interview about the experience:

There was a guy who commented ‘I’m not afraid of anything anymore really.’ I just remember what Bill Hicks said, and I knew exactly what this guy was talking about, I’m a huge Bill Hicks fan, I’ve referenced him in my songs, he’s a hero to me. And I knew he was talking about this monologue that Bill Hicks ended one of his shows with about how life is like a ride at an amusement park, and it has thrills and chills and you go up and down and around and around and it’s very brightly colored and then there are people who remember it’s a ride and they come back and they tell you don’t be afraid of anything ever. It’s just a ride. And I found myself thinking, like, ‘oh am I allowed to steal that for a song? I can write anything I want, I can steal that.’

What she came up with is something so mind-blowingly powerful. And ultimately, I feel, so full of hope and comfort. One of my favorite lines, which consistently puts a lump in my throat, goes "I wish you could think of me sitting and singing beside you." I just love how badly she wants to sit next to these fans of hers that told her so many heartbreaking stories and put her arm around them to comfort them. Another favorite line goes "Isn't it nice when we're all afraid at the same time?" and later a variation of the same: "Isn't it nice when we all can cry at the same time?" We've all gone through tough times in our lives, so we should all be able to sympathize and empathize with each other, and be afraid or cry with each other.

So if you're struggling, remember "it's just a ride." And I join Amanda in her wish that you "could think of me sitting and singing [or] riding beside you."