Written by Caitie Labay. 4 November 2015.
Picture yourself on an ordinary day going through your ordinary tasks; maybe you are cleaning your room, doing homework, or making dinner. You stop suddenly when your phone emits a shrill ring. Looking back on it though, you would remember it not as shrill but rather like the low rumbling sound of an earthquake, because after you said “hello” the next words you heard forced the ground out from under your feet. This kind of a phone call, the one that informs you your loved one is never coming home, is the kind of call a person never forgets. Blake Shelton unfortunately had an experience like this when he was just 14 years old; his older brother Richie was killed in a car accident at the age of 24. This memory never left Shelton’s head, and when he became close with his future wife and fellow country singer Miranda Lambert, he knew that an integral part of developing the relationship was to share this story with her. Little did he know then that not only would this story touch her heart, but that it would soon come to touch the hearts of millions of country music fans around the world.
Miranda Lambert debuted on the national country music scene in 2005 with her first album Kerosene, and has since become one of the most prevalent and powerful female country singers in the nation. She has long been looked at as a sassy rebel and has been associated with the Texas outlaw scene since the start of her carer. This reputation is evident even from the names of some of her albums (along with Kerosene there’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Revolution). Lambert made it clear from the start that she was a strong woman who didn’t need a man to be successful, however when she met the hunky country star Blake Shelton she fell hard like any girl would! Not only did her heart soften up to Shelton, but so did her music. In 2011 the love birds were married, and in 2012 Lambert released the song “Over You” inspired by the death of her brother-in-law. The couple wrote the song together and it served not only as a way for Miranda to share a softer side with her fans, but also as a means to proclaim the love for her new family on a national stage.
The inspiration for the song came when Blake and Miranda were flipping through TV channels and came across the show Backstory on the channel Great American Country which was doing a feature on Blake. The two decided to watch and an interview with Blake’s father came on where he described the feeling of losing Richie, saying that a person never gets over losing a loved one. With that thought in mind, the couple decided to start writing a song as a way to cope with the loss. Both artists say that was the first time they had been brought to tears while writing. In the end, Blake asked Miranda to record the song, feeling as though his emotions would overwhelm him if he performed it every night. She was honored to do so, saying in an interview “I love that song, and I feel like it’s time for me to show that side of me that’s vulnerable and hurting for someone else”. It was her relationship with Blake that made her feel so strongly about the song. “Now that I’m so close to him, it’s my pain, too,” she admits. The song went on to win Song of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards in 2013 (Lambert also won Female Vocalist of the Year at that year’s show).
In order to understand how “Over You” shot to success and reached number one on the US country music charts, it is first important to look at the career Lambert had up to that point. In the 2000s, several successful singles from her first few albums made it into the top 20 on the country charts such as “Kerosene”, “Gunpowder and Lead”, and “White Liar”. One thing that is important to note is that these and many more of her popular songs were jam packed with the message that she was independent, a rule breaker, and anything but soft. The most successful song on her first studio album, “Kerosene”, conveys this message with the lyric “Trade the truth in for a lie, cheating really aint a crime/I’m giving up on love cause love’s given up on me”. While Lambert achieved great successes with songs of this style, she worked for five years chasing that elusive prize of a number one hit. This feat came in 2010 with the single “The House That Built Me”; it is interesting that, like “Over You”, a number one hit was born of a song that had a softer and more vulnerable meaning behind it. It is clear that Lambert’s fans were responsive to this type of a record, but the question is what made “Over You” so wildly popular that it was awarded Song of the Year.
“Over You” is so appealing because it has a very alluring and haunting sound that immediately draws listeners in. The 36 second instrumental introduction is on the longer side in comparison to most songs, and it builds slowly and cinematically, thereby creating a sort of suspense for the rest of the record. The verse-bridge-chorus structure of the song is the perfect tool for developing a story with a beginning, a middle, a turning point, and an end. The song begins by talking about the loss of the loved one and how the speaker’s feelings develop as time goes on. The second verse is more about the speaker living life after the initial shock of the loss and how she sees the loved one in simple objects, like an old set of records. The bridge is the section of the song that signals a turning point in both the story and the sound. This is the moment in the speaker’s life where the realization comes that the person is gone: “It really sinks in, you know/When I see it, in stone”. The chorus following these lyrics is distinctly different from the others. Rather than sounding accusatory, Lambert sounds dejected, as if she is sad but is now accepting the loss. She sings the lyrics in such a way that it sounds like she is choking them out; like she can barely stand to say the truth out loud. Finally at the end of the last chorus she belts out the final lyrics, letting her voice trail off into silence.
Throughout the song there are many instances where Lambert uses powerful imagery in order to create an emotional connection with her audience. The first lyric uses “snow” as a means of not simply telling the listeners that the song was written from a gloomy place, but rather it allows them to imagine all of the feelings associated with snow. The bridge is also particularly poignant because the lyric “when I see it in stone” is the first time we hear Lambert make a direct association between the loved one being gone and being dead. These and many more lyrics take the listener directly into the story of the song, allowing them to experience it and not just hear it.
“Over You” is a song that relates to those who have experienced loss, while at the same time allowing those who have not to empathize with the singer; it hits every type of audience member. This coupled with the fact that it was a drastically different sound from what was normally heard from Miranda caught the attention and adoration of millions. Miranda was also able to reel in an entirely new crowd of fans who were Blake Shelton supporters, as he is the writer and one of the speakers in the record.
This hit also caught the attention of the Academy of Country Music. The biggest songs do not always win song of the year, but rather the Academy makes a decision based on what they want to portray as the cream of the crop and what they want the genre to aspire to be like. The haunting sound and unique message along with its radio success made it the perfect song to receive such an honor.
Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton had no reservations when writing this song, and it was their transparency that made it so powerful that it could touch millions. No one in this world wants to get the kind of phone call that Blake must have gotten, but songs like this remind us that it is ok to grieve and that we are not alone in that feeling.
|0:00||Instrumental intro||Piano, steel guitar, acoustic guitar||The song begins with a relatively lengthy instrumental section. It starts off soft with a simple tune before building cinematically as it plays the recognizable tune of the verse. This buildup sets the stage for a bigger message to come.|
|0:37||Verse 1||“Weatherman said it’s gonna snow…”||On the words “said” and “should” her pitch gets higher. On the word “cold” her pitch gets lower before transitioning into an instrumental interlude.|
|0:49||Instrumental interlude||Acoustic guitar||This interlude gives the illusion of time passing from the previous portion of the verse that said “December” and this portion that says “February”.|
|0:55||Verse 1 cont.||“Mid February shouldn’t be so scary…”||Toward the end of this section the lyrics get choppier as she sings “the presents…the tree…you…and me”. Her pitch gets lower on the word “me” like it did on “cold”. She delivers the word “you” in a higher pitch than the word “me” which implies a positive view of the loved one and conveys the depression of the speaker.|
|1:21||Chorus||“But you went away…”||The words “how”, “I”, “ok”, are drawn out in such a way that they sound like two long syllables. There is a pause between the lyrics “ever get” and “over you”. Her pitch drops on the word “you”, which she draws out.|
|1:46||Instrumental verse||Acoustic guitar, piano, steel guitar||Serves as a transition between the two verses, keeps with the tempo of the song.|
|1:56||Verse 2||“Living alone here in this place…”||Her pitch drops on “afraid” before transitioning to the instrumental interlude.|
|2:08||Instrumental interlude||This interlude gives spacing between the two portions of the verse; the first where she is thinking of a memory and the second a physical object.|
|2:14||Verse 2 cont.||“Your favorite records…”||Her pitch drops on “song” and “me”. The lyrics get choppy as she sings “I know you didn’t…mean…to give them…to me”, implying that she is having difficulty telling the story.|
|2:40||Chorus||“But you went away…”||At the end of this chorus her pitch gets higher on the word “you” instead of lower, and the word is more drawn out. The lyrics at the end of the song are not as choppy as before. In this and the previous chorus she does not put much emphasis on the line “how dare you”, indicating that she is not spiteful, but rather dejected.|
|3:05||Instrumental||Electric guitar, tambourine, piano||This instrumental section brings in an electric guitar and builds dramatically. The sound is much harsher in contrast to the relatively soft sound of the song. This harsh sound will be continued in the second half of the final chorus.|
|3:15||Bridge||“It really sinks in…”||The song abruptly slows down to sift to the bridge which again takes on the choppy character of the song. Her voice drops on “stone”.|
|3:29||Chorus||“Cause you went away…”||This chorus starts off much softer than the others using mostly an acoustic guitar, and her voice gets higher after each individual lyric. Overall she sings the beginning of the chorus much slower. The first word of this chorus is “cause” as opposed to “but”. The phrases sound more like statements as opposed to lyrics and they are sung harshly. The second half of the chorus builds dramatically to the end with an electric guitar.|
|3:54||Playout/outro||Acoustic guitar, piano, steel guitar||The playout gets progressively softer as they gradually drop instruments. The very end sounds like the very beginning of the song.|
“ACM Awards 2013: Full Winners List.” Billboard. Billboard, 7 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.
“Over You by Miranda Lambert.” Songfacts. Songfacts, LLC. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.
Sciarretto, Amy. “New Miranda Lambert Song ‘Over You’ Inspired by Blake Shelton’s Late Brother.” Taste of Country. Taste of Country Network, 4 Oct. 2011. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.
Wolff, Kurt. “Behind The Song: Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton’s ACM-Nominated ‘Over You’.” Radio.com. CBS Local Media, 28 Mar. 2013. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.