This is one of my all-time favorite songs.
I heard the song first on The West Wing Season 6 episode “King Corn”, used as a bookend to a long campaign day; the song was suggested by brilliant actress Mary-Louise Parker. She loves Ryan Adams, apparently. Now, so do I.
“Desire” feels like a poem, set to music, because it really is poetry. Sensitively-voiced poetry. I like to say that Ryan Adams’ voice is like Johnny-Cash-meets-Kurt-Cobain-meets-Ben-Gibbard, but different. I love his style, his raw emotion spilled out in the words that mean so much while only saying so little. Brevity. Gorgeous brevity. The arrangement mirrors the lyrics. Sparse, dynamic, rangy.
Read the lyrics:
Two hearts fading, like a flower.
And all this waiting, for the power.
For some answer, to this fire.
Sinking slowly. The water’s higher.
With no secrets. No obsession.
This time I’m speeding with no direction.
Without a reason. What is this fire?
Burning slowly. My one and only.
You know me. You don’t mind waiting.
You just can’t show me, but God I’m praying,
That you’ll find me, and that you’ll see me,
That you run and never tire.
It’s not obsession. It’s unrequited love.
It’s an insight into the soul of the one he loves as much as it is into his own, at least on the surface. The last verse exemplifies that sentiment.
It’s about how he knows that love is illogical, but he wants an answer for it anyway.
It’s about the human condition, the universal need, the desire for love, to be desired.
What’s remarkable about the song is how it appears to be about the singer’s desire for a woman, when on a deeper level it’s about the singer’s desire for love, love in general. It’s the eternal wanting of something–no direction can be taken to find it, no reason for wanting it–and the eternal fear of never catching it–‘sinking slowly, water’s higher’…
I want someone to run and never tire… eternal desire.
This is a song that articulates my thoughts more poetically and with more brevity than I ever could. And that’s what music’s about (at least for me).