Since the time I have heard My Immortal for the first time, which was almost 5 years ago, I have been in love with it. It spurs in me an unsaid, unsung emotion. There have been numerous songs about death and the pain of separation, but somehow this song takes the sentiment to a new level. I believe that the greatness of any musical composition lies in how well it can communicate an emotion, how deeply it can touch your soul with it. If a song can give you the flavor of any emotion, without having to actually experience that particular situation, then the song has definitely achieved something. Thus, I believe that music has been responsible in making the society more empathetic for ages!
My Immortal is a popular song by the band Evanescence and sung by Amy Lee. Evanescence is a rock band that combines the genres of Gothic rock and Pop. It grabbed the limelight with its debut album ‘Fallen’ and even bagged two Grammy awards for the same. All of their songs have a tinge of darkness or a philosophical melancholy to it. This song is from the debut album of the band and addresses death in an unconventional way. The video of the song, made in black and white has also been highly acclaimed.
Lyrics: The loss of a dear one is probably among the hardest things that we have to deal with in life. Quite often, we tend to trap ourselves in the memories of our beloved and mentally refuse to move on. And just when we accomplish the impossible, just when we prepare yourself to move on we realize that there is too much of that person left in us to let us move on..
” I’ve tried so hard to tell myself that you’re gone
But though you’re still with me
I’ve been alone all along “
This song exactly captures this. Its when the spirit of the departed is always with you, whatever you do reminds you of them, the spirit literally haunts you. And ultimately that memory becomes a bit too much to handle, a bit too much to be able to escape into normalcy.
Instrumentation: This song is considered to be a power ballad in the gothic rock genre. The piano is absolutely brilliant in the song and is the soul of the song, I feel. The chords successfully create a dark and melancholic mood. Amy Lee has also done a wonderful job with the vocals. Also, she has been able to add a personal touch to the song since she had to experience the grief of separation from her sister when she was young. Apart from that, lot of layering and harmonic effects embellish the overall vocals.
A typical characteristic of the rock genre is that the drums and electric guitars kick in at the end, sometimes even with amazing solos. This characteristic can be observed even in this song. Such instrumentation creates an effect of a crescendo or a climax for the song.
The Morse Code Mystery: In some of the versions of the song like this, or especially the version in the album Fallen, you can hear a beeps code at the end. This is created by holding notes of the piano for a longer duration. People believed it to be Morse code of some kind.
But the guitarist of the song Ben Moody clarified that it was actually a preset pattern on a keyboard synthesizer that they were using on the song. In this pattern, by sustaining the note long enough, it trails off into this beeping that sounds a lot like Morse Code. The band just thought that it sounded really cool, so they left it. So it’s there by accident. But maybe it would be quite cool to confirm this and check if the code actually decodes to something!!
For the more interested listener…
- A Power Ballad:
A ballad has its origins in the forms of poetry of the medieval era. It’s a poem that tells a story, a poem characterized by the narrative pattern of its verses. Power ballads came up in the 1970s when rock music felt the need to go beyond mere creative pursuits and try to convey profound messages to the audiences. Power ballads are broadly categorized into Fistpumpers and Tearjerkers.
The Fistpumpers typically hint of a masculine touch, they are about men who aren’t afraid to talk their heart out, stand up for something they truly believe in. Such ballads may even take recourse to preposterous lyrics. Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin was among the pioneering power ballads. Even November Rain by Guns n Roses is an apt example of a Fistpumper.
The Tearjerkers are about emotion. They talk about love, and more often about loss of it. They will build a truly melancholic atmosphere before reaching the heart tearing climax. The most famous Tearjerkers are usually in female voices. Apart from My Immortal, Celine Dion’s Think Twice is also a powerful Tearjerker.
- Gothic Rock:
Gothic rock emerged from the genre of Punk rock as an attempt to reduce the funky and random nature of rock and lead it towards some discipline. Gothic rock deals with introspective dark themes and the poetic sensibilities of the genre led the lyrics to exhibit literary morbidity, religious symbolism and supernatural mysticism. This is one of the songs by the band Bauhaus, a band considered to be the revolutionary gothic rock band.
PS: In the video, Amy Lee represents the departed spirit and her feet are shown to never touch the ground.