As I’ve expressed before, I’m very much a fan of mellow, pensive (and often sadder) music, as is evident by the fact that much of the music I write about here is of that nature. But admittedly, there is a wonderful feeling about listening to happier music and finding an emotional bond with a song that’s uplifting and encouraging; when I find songs of such a nature that I connect with, they become some of the most important songs in my library.
The closer from Autumn’s debut album, Enchant, “What If” is precisely such a song to me, as a liberating piece prefaced by soft piano and filled out by Autumn’s vocals and graceful violin. There’s an element of freedom to the flowing instrumentals and Autumn’s powerful vocals, but the lyrics themselves carry this theme in criticizing an unnamed person by whom the narrator has been judged, looked down on, and held back. The verses and bridge reject this treatment, highlighting this person’s arrogance and refuting the idea that they have any proper understanding of the narrator, whereas the choruses speak in hypotheticals, contemplating if the narrator might be all sorts of contradictions, such as “a snowstorm burning,” “a world unturning, and “an ocean far too shallow, much too deep.”
The exact relationship between the narrator and the subject is never specified, but it is clear that the subject has wronged the narrator, and this song is a reclamation of themselves. The repeated question of “What if?” and the impossible contradictions are a means of rejecting categorization, and Autumn even uses sarcasm in some of my favorite lines of the song, decrying this person’s efforts to figure her out: “What if I don’t know who I am / Will that keep us both from trying / To find out and when you have / Be sure to let me know.”
The music swells as the song progresses, giving it an extra quality of empowerment that makes it a poignantly inspiring listening experience. Just this narrative of escaping someone’s crushing grip is so powerful, but if you have any common ground with the song, being mistreated and judged by somebody who had no right to do so and made you feel awful, it’s this amazing message of independence and breaking free that is incredibly important.