Notes on Matt Berninger’s lyrics on ‘One More Second’

Notes on Matt Berninger’s lyrics on ‘One More Second’

As wonderfully ornate and dense as Matt Berninger’s lyrics can be, as abstract as they can be, as referential and descriptively visual as they can be, Berninger has a certain ability to write beautifully, perfectly simple lyrics that can crush you under the weight of them. An example from The National’s catalogue would be ‘About Today,’ although even that song is a little more evocative even as simple as the lyrics are. ‘One More Second’ is gorgeous, and as much as I’m not wanting to write ‘simple’ because it seems rude, the simplicity is part of the song’s impact and beauty.

There’s very little space. The lines flow quickly into each other when he’s started, particularly in the chorus, like he’s on a roll and wants to get the words out while he still has the ability and drive to do so. But then he pauses in between sections as if searching for words, or searching for the motivation to keep talking. It’s as if he’s not sure if he should be saying anything, if he should be asking for anything, but gets these piecemeal moments of strength to say how he’s feeling, and ask for what he wants. The harmonies on the choruses really hammer home the frenetic nature of these strung-together phrases as he pleads “Give me one more second to dry my eyes/ Give me one more day to realize” and “Give me one more year to get back on track/ Give me one more life to win you back.” Matt’s phrasing has always contributed to the power of his singing and lyricism, something mentioned by his vocal collaborators when discussing I Am Easy To Find.

“Baby, I’m gonna be fine” is a simple phrase, a well-known phrase, but nonetheless a lovely little tidbit for fans of The National, separating itself from Alligator’s “Baby We’ll Be Fine” and delineating a separate headspace, in the same way that some past songs and albums have done. Matt seems happy to explicitly contrast and contradict his previous songwriting, to keep the complex flow and change of emotions at the forefront of it all – such was the case with the recent album, I Am Easy To Find, speaking directly in tandem with and in contrast against Trouble Will Find Me closer, ‘Hard to Find.’ It’s the narrator who is easy to find, in the titular track from I Am Easy To Find, the same narrator perhaps who is upset that an undefined ‘you’ would “probably be hard to find.”

Apparently, this is the story behind the song: “I wrote “One More Second” with Matt Sheehy (Lost Lander, EL VY) with the intention for it to be a kind of answer to Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” or sort of the other side of that conversation. I just wanted to write one of those classic, simple, desperate love songs that sound great in your car.”

And fuck if I don’t love that.

It’s not a lyric-based comment, but fuck it, my article, my rules. Can we just appreciate how amazing that drum fill is at the end of the instrumental section, before the lyrics kick back in, at 4:38? Fuck me I’ve been air-drumming that every time it comes around. And I’ve listened to the song a lot.

I love the convenience of how Spotify has been packaging each new single from Matt’s upcoming album, Serpentine Prison. Each new single comes bundled together, under one name, with the previous singles for the album. Makes it much easier to listen to the slowly building tracks from the album together. Only mildly inconvenient to remove the previous releases from the downloaded songs. Yes, I download songs for local playback on Spotify. Yes, they do often delete themselves for no warning. No, I don’t have unlimited data, so I will not stop trying to listen to music offline.