Ben Harper’s new single ‘Don’t Let Me Disappear’ was released on 13th May and the timing is pretty much spot on.
This is Harper’s first release of 2020, coming after his previous single ‘Uneven Days’ in July of last year. Both tracks have a similar feel and message, but ‘Disappear’ is particularly relevant to the times we are in currently. Harper commented that
“‘Don’t Let Me Disappear’ is about the fine line between loneliness, isolation and invisibility, to where you can’t seem to find a way not to be hiding in plain sight,”.
This is a time where everyone can feel isolated, mentally as well as physically. So, this new track is relatable on so many levels for me, and I’m sure for all of you reading too.
Harper has had a very long and successful career in the industry, boasting seven Grammy nominations, three wins, and was awarded artist of the year by Rolling Stone in 2003. This is a man who really has seen it all, having been on multiple tours around the world. During which, he was joined by artists that he’d collaborated with throughout his career, such as Charlie Musselwhite (No Mercy In This Land), Harper’s outstanding band The Innocent Criminals (Lifeline – Tour Edition) and his mother, Ellen Page (Childhood Home). Harper’s previous releases have taken influence from a variety of different genres such as folk, soul, reggae and rock. It’s safe to say this artist is not a one-trick pony!
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I’m a sucker for an acoustic melody, especially when the guitar is the main feature. This simple yet effective tune heard from the beginning, coupled with the matching backing vocals, fluidly rising and falling and finishing on a minor note, adds a calming yet haunting atmosphere to the track. A steady, soft drum carries the beat but, again, the core of the song stems from that beautiful guitar riff throughout (which I’ll definitely have to teach myself). The instrumentals are steady, so every note has its own moment to shine. This means that the listener can experience every new change of key, rhythm and pace. They can feel exactly what Harper intends for them to feel, at just the right time.
‘Don’t Let Me Disappear’ opens with the lyrics “Been so long since/ It felt easy/ Been too long since/ Anyone could reach me”. This must resonate with us all. With everything going on at the moment amongst these truly awful times, I think the feeling of loneliness is something we have all experienced more than once during the lockdown. It might have only been just over 2 months, but it does feel like it has been an age since life felt easy. We miss our families. We miss our friends. We miss what our lives were. This song really comes at the perfect time for all of us, to listen to and to have our feelings recognised and sympathised with.
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The music starts to pick up halfway through, the drums taking centre stage with a more prominent tempo. Harper goes on to passionately sing “I’m just tryin’ to catch up to myself/ While leaving myself behind”. This is describing the process of losing who you are and so desperately trying to get back to yourself. Despite there being not many lyrics in this song, the images, emotions and questions that are there, hit hard. Harper’s voice is raw and vulnerable and I love how it sounds like a live recording. So many artists change and warp their voices to the point where it’s not theirs anymore, but here I feel like I’m hearing every wobble, every crack in the best possible way. It gives the words he’s singing even more weight and feeling than they already have.
Directed by Kristin Sudeikis and Gabriel Judet-Weinshel, the music video that accompanies this new release is emotional and undeniably artful. A black and white picture for its entirety, it shows two people, both alone, dancing to Harper’s acoustic tune. This monochrome theme not only symbolises for the viewer the loss of the dancers’ selves, through the absence of colour in the video but also portrays how they view the world from their perspectives. Their soft, fluid flow of bodies changes to sharp and fragmented movements, representing the frustration of not just being alone, but not being able to help yourself either. At the end of the video, the TV screen that Harper is inside of slowly begins to fade away from our screens into the background of the shot, slowly getting smaller and smaller while Harper repeats the finishing line “Don’t let me disappear”, his voice fading with it. The mirroring of the visuals and vocals here only symbolise further how Harper feels like he is losing himself. The video closes with him alone, barely visible, in the middle of a black screen. This is a beautifully shot video, presenting us with an equally beautiful track. This really is another triumph for Harper.