Brandy Clark has not only co-written some of the greatest modern country songs ('Follow Your Arrow', 'Bonfire at Tina's', 'Ten Year Town'), but amassed her own impressive solo catalog.
From her 12 Stories debut to the brand new self-titled LP, her songwriting knows no bounds. She’s always honest, insightful, and probing into human nature. There’s nothing she can’t write about.
Here are Brandy Clark’s 15 best songs, ranked by Holler.
Clark fully admits she’s not the rosy-cheeked, virginal-metaphor, next-door type. She might be “just the perfect mess”, and if that’s not what you’re looking for, “then just go next door,” she sings.
“I’ve never been to jail / But hell, I wouldn’t put it past me,” she shrugs in the first verse. She’s rough around the edges, not the type you talk home to mama.
In a similar vein to ‘Big Day in a Small Town,’ ‘Soap Opera’ shines a spotlight on the cast of characters living in a small town. Sherry and Jimmy are just two characters taking centerstage, with Clark inviting the listener into a salacious soap opera. With drama always unfolding, well, some performances are Emmy-worthy – and let’s leave it at that.
Heartbreak can do a number on the mind. As a red-faced, totally-blitzed ex-lover keeps showing up or blowing up her phone, Clark has had about enough. With ‘You’re Drunk,’ she tells it exactly like it is. “This time, no, that dog won’t hunt,” she sings. The relationship ended for a reason; her ex just wasn’t worth her time.
“There’s always something to talk about,” Clark sings. The title track to her second studio set, ‘Big Day in a Small Town’ is chock-full of sordid tales about drunk driving, teenage pregnancy and plenty of gossip. Small-town living might not be glamorous, but the drama that circulates provides plenty of entertainment to pass the time.
Kicking off Your Life is a Record, ‘I’ll Be the Sad Song’ sets up the album’s scope - a soundtrack to every moment of our lives. It falls bittersweetly on the eardrums, as Clark reflects on a past relationship and how long-lasting the pain has become. “I’ll be your sad song, your good-love-gone-bad song,” she sings.
Clark is no stranger to being brutally honest, and ‘Long Walk’ is certainly no exception. “Take a cinderblock with you as a souvenir,” she sings, calling out a mean girl. The jaunty arrangement and giddy-up rhythm play against the sharp-toothed lyrics, a charming concoction that makes for a banger of a track.
Lonely and jilted, Clark wishes her ex well, while condemning love for getting her into trouble to begin with. “Yeah, love can go to hell,” she sings with acid on her tongue. Her bite is venomous, yet there’s raw vulnerability to the performance that draws you in. Just another day in heartbreak land.
Bored with life? Get high. Feeling heartbroken? Get high. Need excitement? Get high. “Sometimes the only way to get by is to get high,” encourages Clark. ‘Get High’ isn’t trying to be some deep reflection of humanity; it’s a simple song about smoking weed. Sometimes, that’s all you need.
Everyone numbs their pain in some form or fashion – whether it’s for depression, nerves or just to cope with the world. A beautifully delicate performance, ‘Take a Little Pill’ sinks into the deterioration of humanity. “If one won’t work, then another one will,” reminds Clark over dusty guitar and percussion. It’s as terribly grim as it is undeniably striking.
Clark opens her debut 12 Stories with ‘Pray to Jesus,’ a rolling mid-tempo about wanting to do things differently to what came before. But it’s futile. Instead, the new generation repeats those same cycles. “So we pray to Jesus, and we play the lotto / Cause there ain’t but two ways we can change tomorrow,” sings Clark.
The day she got divorced is like any other day. She woke up, put on her makeup, made a cup of coffee and puffed on a cigarette. “Didn't feel any different than it ever had / She wasn't that sorry, she wasn't that sad,” Clark sings, also noting the character’s infidelity. But no matter, it’s not like any of it is shocking. It’s just another day, after all.
Witnessing her lover in bed with a “platinum blonde”, Clark could easily pull the trigger and get her revenge right then and there. But neither stripes nor orange looks good on her. She couldn’t possibly commit a crime of fashion; that’s just out of the question. Instead, she’ll swallow her anger with a little Jack Daniels.
Over tender guitar, Clark cherishes the endurance of love and pleads for understanding. A relationship, doused in ego, is a fragile creature after all. “Don't let this moment linger,” she sings, stretching out her fingertips. Such intimacy oozes onto the record, mirrored through Clark’s caressing of the melody. It’s soft, yet powerfully electric.
“In a broken home, it ain’t no fairy tale,” sings Clark. ‘Three Kids No Husband’ tells the story of a single mother raising three kids, working to the bone, and barely making ends meet. You know what they say, not all heroes wear capes - but this one wears an apron and does so rather proudly.
Death is a tough pill to swallow. In ‘Since You’ve Gone to Heaven,’ Clark shares the disastrous aftermath of losing a loved one. “The whole world’s gone to hell,” she sings with a downtrodden heart. Death casts darkness over everything, but life goes on. And the world spins as though nothing happened. It’s the way of life.
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