You might recall Ryan Bingham as the guy who seemingly came out of nowhere with the award winnng song “The Weary Kind” from the 2009 movie Crazy Heart.
After his win, Bingham continued his journeyman career and currently provides the title song for the FX show The Bridge (based on the Swedish original). Unless you are into glacially paced, brilliantly written and well acted crime drama’s, you’re probably not watching it. Luckily for me, I like that stuff, so I tune in to FX every Wednesday at 10pm.
The Bridge is in the same vein as AMC’s Swedish crime import, The Killing. In other words, it’s often been frustratingly amazing with minor dips into excellence. So the show is really great but for the past 12 weeks I’ve watched the opening sequence to The Bridge and have been annoyed, intrigued, and eventually beguiled by the theme song.
Initially, I was just pissed. In my head, I wanted something powerful and punchy that announced a new crime show. I was excited for this show because I was unable to find the Swedish version anywhere and wanted a theme song to match my excitement. When the opening sequence began with this sparse guitar and gravelly voice, I was irked. By the fourth episode, I had settled into the show, and the opening, and had softened my thinking about the opening song. In fact, I started playing this game with myself to see if I could figure out who the artist was without looking it up or at watching the end credits. By episode eight, I was affixed to both the show and how well the opening song worked. Everything was nothing short of brilliant.
But I still couldn’t figure out who performed the opening song. Obviously, by the tenth episode I was adamant about figuring it out myself and was confident I would eventually get it. This past week as the opening began I serendipitously recalled how much I liked the songs from Crazy Heart but when I heard the raspy voiced Ryan Bingham sing them, they didn’t work for me. There it was, that voice!
The opening song was Ryan Bingham.
Immediately, I double checked myself on them Internets and sho’nuff, it was Ryan Bingham and the song was called “Until I’m One With You”. I hopped on iTunes and splurged on the 1.29. I’ve listened to the song exclusively for the past two 36 hours.
“Until I’m One With You” completely ignores any sort of traditional song structure or pedantic rhyming scheme. It’s lonely and haunting guitar accompanying Bingham’s raspy voice and plaintive lyrics makes for one of the most affecting songs in recent memory. It’s the beautiful simplicity of the vocals and the lyrics that seemingly wants to tell us what love should be but it’s the tone of the song and a closer listen to the lyrics that reminds us of the complexity that love always is. As a stand alone song, it’s jaw dropping in its condensed intricacy.
As a theme song for a television show, it’s perfect. Not since the Jonathan Wolff jazz riffs for Seinfeld has a song worked so well in tandem with a shows theme. Wolff’s bass bits helped frame the tonality of comically punchy Seinfeld while Bingham’s song frames the tragedy of The Bridge. Both worm their way into your head so that you are enraptured from the first note and first frame.
Ryan Bingham seems to be channeling the lyrical prowess of Greg Brown and the restraint that guitarist Bo Ramsy uses. Which are both really good things. What is “Until I’m One With You” about ? I dunno. It reveals very little lyrically and you are left to interpret what you can from the songs pacing, Bingham’s singing and a closer reading of the lyrics. My gut tells me it’s not about unrequited love or a break up, as I initially thought. I think it’s about something much more tragic.
I want to believe that the show is smart enough that the song will fit snugly with the arc of this first series. But I will have to wait and see. Even if it doesn’t, it’s still a helluva song.
You’re never going to see anyone twerking to Ryan Bingham’s “Until I’m One With You” because, well, it’s not that type of song. It’s never going to be a hit and it will probably never receive an award. The recording industry doesn’t typically give awards to this type of stuff.
This is the type of song that MacArthur Genius Awards are given for. Yea, it’s that good.