Even though they may be encoded with 1s and 0s or enshrined in vinyl grooves, songs are not static entities. They live and breathe, expand and contract as the years wear on. They take on different meanings for the listener, just as they do for the artist. It’s no wonder, then, that singer/songwriter Natalie Merchant has chosen to revisit her solo career’s seminal set of songs with the distance of 20 years behind her — much like Alanis Morissette did with Jagged Little Pill, though only 10 years on.
Coming off her incredibly successful run with 10,000 Maniac, Merchant made her solo stand with Tigerlily back in 1995. To mark its anniversary, she has reworked those compositions with the power of hindsight and the benefit of maturation for Paradise Is There. Some may cite the effort as an unnecessary nostalgic remembering, but it’s more than that. Sure, the unforgettable vibe and groove of “Carnival” have been blunted (and Katell Keineg’s vocals forsaken). But, what Merchant has lost of pep in her step, she’s gained in purpose of her position. Take, for instance, “Beloved Wife.” Having gone through divorce and motherhood, Merchant now brings that much more gravitas to the words: “You were the love for certain of my life. You were simply my beloved wife … I can’t believe I’ve lost the very best of me.”
As with anything, you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have… well, in this case, Paradise.