30 Songs in 30 Days: #4 – “Fred Jones Part 2” (Ben Folds)

Day 4: A song that makes you sad

If you’re casually familiar with Ben Folds’ music (from both Ben Folds Five and his solo work), you might assume his albums consist mostly of quirky, sarcastic, slightly bitter tunes driven by jaunty piano melodies. And it’s true—a lot of his music fits that description perfectly. But a lot of it also gut-punches you when you’re not expecting it. Then, when you’re bent over gasping for breath and feeling like you might puke, it grabs you by your hair and shoves your face in the harsh realities of life. You might remember “Brick,” one of Ben’s first radio singles back in the 90s. If that song didn’t leave you feeling like a hollowed-out shell of a human being lying in a gutter, then you’re an emotionless monster. (Just kidding, but it’s pretty sad nonetheless.) For me, though, “Fred Jones Part 2” is a much more personally upsetting song that resides on Ben Folds’ solo debut Rockin’ the Suburbs. The album’s tongue-in-cheek title track about the struggles of life in white suburbia ropes you in with a few laughs before “Fred Jones Part 2” rips your heart out of your chest and stomps on it while you bawl your eyes out.

I’m exaggerating, I know, but something about “Fred Jones Part 2” resonates viscerally with a part of me every time I hear it. In fact, I can’t even listen to the song anymore because I know exactly how it will go. With stark and simple strokes, Ben paints the dreary portrait of a man past his prime and obsolete, being pushed out of a job he used to excel at, unable to find joy or comfort in things that used to make him happy. Meanwhile, I’ve completely forgotten whatever it was I was doing, and instead stare off into space with wet cheeks and fear for my own future. In today’s money-driven, lightspeed-paced world, Fred Jones’ relentless slide into irrelevance feels inevitable. It doesn’t help that I’ve seen it in real life, and may currently be witnessing it happen to someone in the same career as me. It all hits a bit too close to home, and I can’t help but wonder if I’ll be in Fred’s worn, out-dated shoes someday.

Well, that was strangely cathartic. Anyway, grab yourself a box of Kleenex for today’s entry.

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2 Responses to 30 Songs in 30 Days: #4 – “Fred Jones Part 2” (Ben Folds)

  1. Pingback: 30 songs in 30 days: #25 – “Song for the Dumped” (Ben Folds Five) – Fiction and Fact

  2. Love Ben Folds. I think the song that gets me the most from his solo career is “Carrying Cathy.” The piano trills in the opening give you the hope of something uplifting but the lyrics…pretty much as heavy and introspective as “Brick.”

    Liked by 1 person

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