Most of the time, listening to music can be a pretty passive, casual thing. Sure, there are more complex pieces, and in the right setting with the right song, you may be singing and dancing along, but I feel like music, on average, requires less direct attention most of the time.
Every so often, though, I encounter a song that, for some reason, does not work so much in that sort of a role, and “In The End” by Vanessa Carlton is just such a song.
Carlton excels in creating a compelling atmosphere throughout all of Rabbits On The Run, the 2011 album from which the song comes, but it’s in this closer that it’s most poignant. Opening with dissonant strings, “In The End” is a slow, mournful piano piece that feels properly fitting only for a funeral. There’s nothing stopping you from listening to it on shuffle as you do other things, and certainly it can function fine in that role, but the tone of the song is so disconcerting, so morbid, almost, that it’s hard to listen to casually. I find it’s the kind of song that, at least to appreciate fully, it really needs to be given some attention.
Though the lyrics are brief, they speak of an ending, of finality; Carlton has explained herself that she wrote it for her brother after the loss of someone close to him. The funeral tone and overall atmosphere of the song make a lot of sense given that knowledge.
Certainly the song’s mood can be a turn-off for some, but if you’re in the proper mood for that kind of music, potentially dealing with some grief of your own, or if you’re just interested in hearing something different, it’s worth a listen.