There’s a fine line between being deliberate and being slow.
You shouldn’t have to reach too far into your experience to know what I mean by “slow.” The DMV is slow; Monday mornings are slow; your 10th grade math class was slow. Slow things take more time than is their due: one might say they’re slow for the sake of slowness. When you’re experiencing them, it feels like there’s a hidden camera on you, set there by someone waiting to see if you’ll crack with impatience.
But you’re probably also familiar with what I mean by “deliberate.” Deliberate things can feel slow, but never for the sake of slowness. Instead, deliberation pays attention to the fact that the best things in life take considerable time: things like justice, love, growth. A marriage is deliberate; so is a great novel; so is a PhD program.
And so is “Chequers” by George David.
At first listen, the song seems to move at a snail’s pace. A softly-strummed acoustic guitar lays a simple, meandering groundwork, and the song is 30 seconds old before one hears anything else.
Then David’s vocal trickles in like sap to deliver each line, disappearing again for a few seconds between.
I’ve loved our first date
Although you were late
And this might sound dumb
But I don’t want it to end
Despite the leisurely pace, it only takes one verse to realize what’s going on. The singer has just finished a first date. He’s tentative, but trying to be brave. Like dipping one’s foot in water before getting in fully, he isn’t being slow: he’s being deliberate.
The date continues to unfold in small ways: they leave the busyness of the city, get out some wine, and put on some music.
You put on the song
And I’ll sing along…
I’ll remember every part I bet
But you say that you might forget
And now you’re dancing in the kitchenette
Why don’t we go to Century Road
The song itself does the same: a deliberately placed lyric here, a soft drum fill there; a gentle drop followed by a calm lift; never getting too full for its banks, relying on simplicity and intention to secure its hold. And man, does it work.
So if you’ve got the time to sit still, stand down, and pay attention, this is the song for you.
“Chequers” is a story that’s refreshingly honest about one of the most often-ignored aspects of love: it doesn’t happen quickly. It’s the sum of a million moments like this one, dancing in the kitchen to a familiar song at the end of a date. And it’s the mark of a great songwriter to not just use words to make this point, but to use all the melodic and instrumental tools he’s been given.