Go Ahead And Cry, Jim Cuddy. We Like It.
I’ve been watching the media blitz that has accompanied the release of Jim Cuddy’s third solo album, Skyscraper Soul. I’m a bit fascinated by the combined old-school/new-innovative approach that Warner Records is taking. There’s the typical television and radio appearances (Q on CBC, an hour-long show on CMT Canada, appearances on shows like Canada AM) and then there’s the full internet onslaught. If you happen to ‘like’ Blue Rodeo on Facebook, you have seen the endless updates that lead you to a website where a new tidbit about the album was released every 3 or 4 days for the two months prior to its release date. Yikes. No question that the blanketing possibilities afforded by the internet have made promotion easier for record labels if they’re willing to make the effort.
Somewhere in the middle of those two approaches fell the NowTalks Interview, a regular interview series that is hosted by Toronto’s weekly newspaper, Now Magazine. I decided to go see it at the Drake Hotel, since it promised to be more interesting than the typical 15 minute radio interview, so I dragged my friend along. And here is what I have discovered over the last four days of Jim-Cuddy-appearing-everywhere-in-Toronto-to-promote-his-new-album: he’s afraid to cry.
Let me clarify. If you’ve followed this at all, you’ve no doubt heard the album’s first single, “Everyone Watched the Wedding.” Yes, it is about the royal wedding. Why? I don’t know. I suspect Cuddy didn’t really either until he started getting flack for writing a song about it and had to come up with an explanation. Essentially, he tells interviewers, it was merely the result of a confluence of events and inspirations that fell from his mind as a sentimental rumination on young love and duty. (The King’s Speech, the London riots, the wedding itself, the everyday struggles of a “normal” man, etc…he told the whole story quite nicely on Friday’s Q if you want to hear the full thing.)
So he says this in the Now interview, gets through the whole story, and I happen to turn to my friend as it finishes and she’s got the most spectacular look of skepticism on her face. (I should note that we have been co-Blue Rodeo fans for a long time, so there’s a reason that his story came out of nowhere for her.) Alright, not everybody is buying this story, or if they are, they might think it a bit strange. Not entirely strange, since Cuddy is an articulate, thoughtful person who indeed has interesting stories behind many of his songs, but still…it’s maybe difficult for some of his audience to imagine such an overt reaction to the royal wedding coming from him.
Not for me. See, what I have discovered is this: as men age, they get more and more sentimental and they start crying more (no, this statement is not meant as a generalization, nor am I going to try and suggest that dropping testosterone levels or something similar is at the root of this phenomenon. It is just what I have observed in my own experience.) I remember back when my dad was around Cuddy’s age (55) and we went to a movie together and at a crucial emotional moment in the plot, I noticed the seat next to me shaking a little and he was wiping away tears. ! My dad fucking cries. (Almost, but not quite, as surprising as catching my husband cuddling the cat when he thought I wasn’t looking.) Now, my dad cries all the time, through TV shows and movies, when we tell him he’s a good dad, when I get a good review from my students. It just happened to him out of nowhere, and I think he’s finally reached a point where he doesn’t feel he always has to be the unflappable head of the household. His kids are grown up and moving on with their own lives, a time that is equally exciting and sad. Cuddy admits in these interviews that he has the same reaction to his own children leaving the house, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he is going through something of an emotional recalibration.
I suspect, then, that Cuddy followed the hoopla surrounding Will and Kate and got just as caught up in it as everyone else. But as a maturing rock star, it’s maybe not the coolest thing to blubber over the wedding before band rehearsal, so it had to be spun a different way. Never mind the political implications of the grandiosity of the wedding at a trying time in Britain’s economic history, something that makes it additionally difficult to sing about. I’m not necessarily saying anything new here—he admits to being a family man and being inspired by romantic stories and the contrast between a normal existence and a spectacular one. What I am saying, though, is it’s okay. We are inundated with coolness at every turn, with Keith Richards spacing out through yet another interview, and John Mellencamp showing up with a new starlet every ten years or so, so it’s refreshing to see a cool guy get a little teary about a wedding and then write a song about it.
I’m not going to review the album here; in fact, I would rather leave that to somebody else. It was released today and is available on the website or through the typical outlets if anyone wants to take on that task. From what I have had time to hear when it was streaming from his website (and from all the interviews), it seems like another good selection of Cuddy originals with a band that is now pretty solid. I tend to live in the Blue Rodeo past a bit, so I don’t know if it can compete with the strange boldness, fragility, and energy of his first solo, All in Time, for me, but history tells us that he’s unlikely to do anything poorly. So good luck with the wedding song and all the others, Jim. We like you, even if you cry.