From the opening pentatonic motif of Grace Joyner’s “Hung the Moon” off her recently released sophomore album Settle In, you’re sucked into a luminescent landscape. On this third collaboration with producer and engineer Wolfgang Zimmerman (Band of Horses, Brave Baby, Susto), Joyner furthers her musical journey into discovering herself and her musical essence – and it’s stunning.
The track itself is sparse, with shifting, almost celestial musical movements evoked by the interplay of echoing synths. The sonic landscape is also fairly minimalistic and impressionistic – with the latter bringing to mind paintings by Monet or Van Gogh as one imagines the shifting and moving lines that ebb and flow into each other and across the aural spectrum. With layered pop synths, pentatonic melodies and motifs, echoing flutes and soft, warm bass sounds under undulating and emotive vocals, this is a well-produced track. From the opening pentatonic phasing in the intro and moving into the moving bass lines under sustained synths and vocals in the verse, we are taken on a journey. Adding simple rhythmic elements in the pre-chorus that lead into a strong delivery of the chorus and an even poppier post-chorus with a catchy riff that is in direct – and much needed – contrast to the melodies previously heard.
Lyrically, while simple and straightforward, there is seemingly a nod to some children’s stories that have similar titles to this song. The story of admiring something so profoundly that it would compel us to believe they were capable of such a feat of magical, or human, ingenuity that would allow the admired to, literally, hang the moon in the sky for us to view at night. But this musical and lyrical journey is more than that – it is one of growth and discovery – a reflection on the tribulations of young love and the growth that comes from those experiences.
There is something about the lyric that evokes the understanding that all lovers are teachers – and that even though we may make mistakes, we can learn from them and grow. In love, we often lose ourselves – and have either have to ‘re-find’ ourselves once that love ends, or we discover we are lost and we must choose to stay or leave, and there is something about the recognition of this often well traveled experience occurrence that seems understood and appreciated.
As we approach the end of the chorus, all of this comes into focus. “Hung the Moon,” a phrase colloquially referring to viewing someone with excessive awe, reverence or adoration, is a compelling punch line for the end of the chorus – and one that Joyner & Zimmerman somehow also simultaneously manage to evoke in the sonic textures leading up to that compelling line – and an equally compelling track.
“Hung the Moon” is a song worth adding to your collection. It’s not something to dance to, but rather to mull over and reflect on the variances of love and all that it provides – both when it exists and when it fades. An aural Van Gogh for your ears, and one that I hope is only the beginning of Joyner’s journey as a songwriter.
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