Top 10 Songs of 2013 – #2: “Say Something” by A Great Big World

30 Dec

A Great Big World

Back on November 1 I wrote a post urging readers to listen to “Say Something” and brace themselves for the inevitable Great Big World rise to the top. Three days later, an eager Christina Aguilera paired with A Great Big World to release a “Say Something” duet, which she recorded with the band. After a consecutive performance of this duet on “The Voice,” the song has ballooned, reaching the #1 spot on the iTunes charts, selling more than 180,000 copies in a week (and more than one million copies overall), and ultimately propelling Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino to high-profile performances and an eagerly awaited upcoming album.

But let’s back up. Admittedly, I was late on the Great Big World train. Prior to the performances on the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show, “The Voice,” and even the initial “Say Something” feature on the final of “So You Think You Can Dance” (seven days after it was released as a single in September of this year), A Great Big World was already a known commodity in the Indie Pop world. Signed in May of 2013 by Epic Records, the group previously went on national tours with Ingrid Michaelson, Five for Fighting, and Matthew Morrison. The now long forgotten song “This is the New Year” was featured on Glee, ESPN, The Amazing Race, and One Tree Hill. While the meteoric rise of “Say Something” teetered on an overnight success story, it was more approbation for the hard work put in by the two songwriters who met while attending the Steinhardt school at NYU.

This, though, is a countdown of songs, so let’s get to the #2 song on the countdown. As you are now noticing, I included the version of “Say Something” without Aguilera. I enjoy the uber-popular Aguilera version. Unlike most songs, Aguilera does not actually out-sing the song. She has an incredible voice with almost excessive range, but instead of gratuitousness, she holds herself back and provides a heart-wrenching complement to Axel’s sincere, clean vocal. But, like in most cases, I like the untampered original. A Great Big World, however, might think the contrary. While some misguided YouTubers actually label the song as “Say Something” by Christina Aguilera feat. A Great Big World, which is shameful in its inaccuracy, the band certainly has the Staten Island diva to thank for its rise to the top.

The song, as I expressed in my initial post about it, is minimalistic. It demonstrates musical simplicity at its finest – a soft piano and tender vocal. The lyric is also simple, featuring choral epistrophe and concise verses. While simple, the song is never banal. Conversely, it is one of the freshest songs released in a few years. Perhaps it is its candor or wholeness. The song packs ardor and intelligence into a four-minute piano ballad punch.

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