I delve into and enjoy music primarily via some type of relatability. Sometimes it’s a theme that I connect with my personal life, sometimes it’s a theme that I connect with the lives of people around me, and sometimes it’s even something that I connect with a fictional story. Regardless of the source, though, it’s typically an essential factor in forming some sort of emotional connection with music.
But some songs put together their own, individual pull and craft a story that can stand by itself. I think that’s one of the things that I really appreciate about some of (now-former) melodic-rock band Thriving Ivory’s songs. Sometimes they tell an individual story, but oftentimes they paint two sides of the story or focus entirely on another party, and it makes for a different listening experience.
Such is the case with “Secret Life,” a song from their self-titled album. It’s a powerful story about somebody who’s struggling and drifting through life and trying to make do with what little she has. The somber struggle portrayed in the song is amplified by the mellow piano that is Thriving Ivory’s signature and accented by electric guitar and poignant orchestration as the song progresses.
The verses of the song are told in the third person, narrating the tale of the struggling subject; in the choruses, it shifts to the first person. It’s here that the tale really picks up emotion, as lead singer Clayton Stroope belts out, “You dance like a queen / in spite of all the things you never wanted.” It’s in this that the song truly brings together this emotional tale of somebody who tries so hard in the face of life’s dullness and difficulties. It fills out the background that is given in the verses into a truly sympathetic character.
That’s not to say that it’s a story that can’t be related to in any sense, and I can’t even say for my own part that I only enjoy it in a vacuum as its own story. Nonetheless, in a short 4.5 minutes, “Secret Life” constructs an emotional and compelling narrative, a task not easily accomplished. It’s a moving listening experience, and it’s one I can never seem to experience enough.