A cubic zirconia is an artificially created diamond.
A competitor to the real thing, it’s close enough for the average person not to be able to tell the difference. It’s also the title of Katy Kirby’s new song.
The song is charming. But it’s also arranged to surprise you.
For whilst it contains sounds and movements that are familiar, it gently upends your listening experience, and does it by pulling you helplessly into the groove through delectable instrumentation and fascinating lyrics that I can’t quite get my head around.
Kirby suggests that the song celebrates the way someone uses the artificial to present a version of themselves to the outside world. To use an artificial diamond to describe this person would suggest that she sees the made-up person and the naked, natural person as the same thing, indistinguishable from each other.
And yet she continually uses the refrain:
Why wouldn’t that be enough?
And I’m thrown by that line.
Surely it says, “I don’t need you to wear artificial things, I love you as you are.” But the words don’t give a suitable answer. Instead, they document fascinating snapshots of how she is looking at this person with some degree of awe.
Perhaps the awe is the cubic zirconia?
As she sings later:
I’m still craving that unstable sort of shine
Shining like cold plastic water bottles held against the light
Perhaps she can’t see clearly through the heady feelings she’s experiencing. She sings “why” and certain other short words with an exquisite snaking of notes which adds irresistible and very unexpectedly beautiful flourishes to her delivery.
And in addition to her precise delivery of the words, piano and acoustic guitar are matched perfectly around each other with their rhythms and pauses. In the second verse a slightly more fuzzy electric guitar gets to dance around a little and adds to push the song along perfectly until it stops for Kirby to sing:
Face framed by hoodie like an oyster in a shell
And your eyes are rolling at me as a pair of angry pearls
You’re the prettiest mermaid in the souvenir shop
But if you’re coming home this late
You know you’d better be drunk
The object of her affections is an object. A trinket to buy over the counter and own. But something of the real world breaks through the artifice – the beloved fallibility of humans. Each part of the song seems to undermine the idea that being artificial is fine and good.
Kirby describes herself in this confusing way, too:
Like a barbed-wire electric fence of personality
For all her gentle, clear delivery, I hear a lot of cleverly written doubts or snags in the words. But this uncertainty makes the song bear repeating, just like the fantastically authentic movement and arrangement in the music.
In short: this song feels like a contradiction to me and is addictive because of it.
It is uniquely fragile and also powerful. It seems sure of what it sees, but perhaps ambiguous in what it feels. It has quirky arrangements, and yet definitely gets in your head and makes you want to try singing along with the light delivery of the lyrics.
Overall, it’s intoxicating, catchy, and just bloody lovely.
Why wouldn’t that be enough?