Hopefulness and optimism in music often walk a fine line; perhaps it’s just because of how I personally think, but a lot of music instilled with optimism just reaches too far for me, and even if I enjoy the song on other merits, it lacks the quality to truly cheer me up. It can be frustrating at times when it falls short, but in the end, it makes it all the more moving when a song manages to achieve that perfect middle ground, a hopefulness in lyrics and timbre covert enough to achieve a warming quality.
Recently, I’ve recognized the degree to which this middle ground lies within “Wish You Well” by Joshua Hyslop, a soft, upbeat folk song about endings and starting over. Fading in softly, Hyslop begins his soothing vocals over acoustic guitar before the song’s steady drumbeat kicks in. Banjo fills out the melody while cello in the background creates a soothing harmony throughout the second verse and chorus, and then the vocals drop out for an instrumental section.
Though its lyrics are brief, “Wish You Well” conveys a reluctant farewell to a love. But rather than dwelling on bitterness or spite, rather than directing malice or sadness their way, Hyslop accepts the ending and wishes them well, as per the title. The true pinnacle of the song, however, comes in the second verse, which seems to cover the aftermath of the goodbye as Hyslop declares, “There is love left in me still / though I may not feel it now / someday I will.” It’s sometimes hard not to dwell on heartbreak, loss, and life’s other difficulties, but these lines don’t attempt to force past that stage to see the silver lining; they recognize that, while the present may be a period of roughness, there remains a stability and the capacity to feel that way again. Though the whole song is beautiful and calming, it has been in honing in on those lines that I’ve truly realized how much I value the song.
For some, perhaps the sweeping, dramatic optimism works and is most effective, and as such I can’t claim with absolute certainty that “Wish You Well” would have this effect on everybody. But for anybody who appreciates a reserved, patient sort of hopefulness, this song is a perfect example of that.