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"Nothing" is a great song written by Edie Brickell. It's the ninth song on Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars, the album that made Edie Brickell & New Bohemians famous. That was in 1989, I think. I wasn't too good at keeping track of time back then.

This song wasn't such a big hit, not like that first track. Maybe it doesn't have what it takes to play over and over on the radio. I'd still buy the whole CD just for this song, even if it didn't have "What I Am" on it.

I think this is one of the best love songs ever, and it doesn't even use the word.

Just reading the lyrics won't show you why this song is so good. Even with the funny little "handwriting" kind of style they used in the CD liner notes, the words look almost cold. You really need to hear Edie singing them and the music wrapping around them. I'll try to tell you the way it sounds to me but I think you should listen to it for yourself if you ever get the chance.

Here's the "official" printed lyrics:

     Are you in a bad mood?
     Don't you wanna talk about it?
     Did I say somethin' rude?
     You don't have to cry about it.
     Aren't you feeling okay?
     Would you like a little company?
     Or did you have a bad day?
     Are you mad at me? - Let it show
     Don't tell me nothing - I don't wanna know
There's nothing I hate more than nothing
Nothing keeps me up at night
I toss and turn over nothing
Nothing could cause a great BIG fight
    Hey - what's the matter?
    Don't tell me nothing.

Well this is all fine if you already have the CD. If you just had trouble hearing all the words, this takes care of that little problem. Now I'll try to fill in some of what gets left out. There's too much. I won't be able to get it all, but maybe I can get enough.

When the music starts it's just one lone guitar, picking out high, soft notes, sad and gentle. The rest of the band joins in slow and calm, like someone trying to get close to a shy kitten. Before you know it, they've built up into the main groove of the song. When Edie starts singing, her voice is the same way.

Are you in a bad mood?
Don't you wanna talk about it?
Did I say somethin' rude?
You don't have to cry about it.

In the first verse you can already hear her changing the mood. She starts out sharing your sadness, but her arm will go around you and she'll start to lift you up. She won't let you stay alone and silent. By the time she says you don't have to cry, she is thinking of someplace where you'll both be able to laugh. She knows you won't get there without more work.

Aren't you feeling okay?
Would you like a little company?
Or did you have a bad day?
Are you mad at me? Well, let it show

These things can be so hard to say, but it's easy for her to say them to you. That's the kind of friendship this is. "You don't have to hide the problem, whatever it is, even if it's me," she's saying. But she's not picking a fight. Her voice is smiling the whole time. Her voice soars up high on the word "well" - the word that doesn't even show up in the printed lyrics. Then it glides back down to the smile.

Don't tell me nothing
Don't tell me nothing - I don't wanna know

She's still smiling, but there's a real warning here too. She won't give up. You can't just brush this off. It's not "How are you?" "Oh, I'm fine." Your friendship goes deeper than that.

There's nothing I hate more than nothing
Nothing keeps me up at night
I toss and turn over nothing
Nothing could cause a great big fight

Sooner or later you have to come out of your shell. It's not protecting you anyway, and it's not protecting your friends. She's telling you straight out, not in a guilt trippy way, just the honest truth. Knowing her friend is locked up in there sad and alone doesn't protect her at all. She hates it. She'll fight to stop it.

At the same time, the smile is still there in her voice. She doesn't hate you. She hates the thing that's eating you up inside.

Hey - what's the matter?
Hey - what's the matter?
What's wrong with you, what's wrong with you?
Don't tell me nothing.

Hey - what's the matter?
Hey - what's the matter?
What's wrong with you, what's wrong with you?

I think I know why they left these "what's wrong with you" lines out of the printed lyrics. They look so cold if you don't hear the way Edie sings them. Somehow she makes them into laughter without laughing at you. She's still taking you seriously but your problems are just a game you can win together. There's a smile inside you somewhere. You can't keep it locked up forever.

The band is following right along with her. They've been getting more upbeat, slowly. Now, after she says "don't tell me nothing" you realize the music is soaring. It's not sad at all anymore.

There's nothing I hate more than nothing
Nothing keeps me up at night
I toss and turn over nothing
Nothing could cause a great big fight

Hey - talk to me
Hey - talk to me
Are you feeling blue?
Blue

It's hard to describe the way Edie says "blue" in these lines. She doesn't sing it the same way as the other words. Somehow she puts more real love into this one word than most people can put into a whole song. She makes it fly like a bird.

It's like Blue is your new nickname. She's calling you Blue in this jokey, teasing way, but there's nothing mean about it. It's all love, and she only wants to help you smile. Are you feeling blue, Blue? Hey, talk to me, Blue! I'll keep calling you Blue until you smile. Not even your Nothing can stop me.

That's the feeling for the rest of the song. I try to think of this song whenever I'm down, or one of my friends is sad. Not that I tell them that. I try to remember how it feels to imagine Edie is talking to me in this song. I try to think of some way to help my friend feel that way. That someone cares that much.

Nothing is worse than seeing someone you love sad and alone.

Nothing is lonelier than knowing you make yourself lonely even though you don't have to.

Nothing is better than helping someone break through that wall.

But this is her song, so I need to let Edie have the last word here.

Hey - talk to me
Are you feeling blue?
Blue
Blue
Hey - talk to me

Don't tell me nothing
Don't tell me nothing
Don't tell me nothing - I don't wanna know
I don't wanna know
I don't wanna know
I don't wanna know... nothing
I don't wanna know... nothing
I don't wanna know... nothing
Are you feeling blue?
Blue
Blue
Hey talk to me
Hey talk to me
Don't tell me nothing
Don't tell me nothing