Monday, January 20, 2014

Breaking Down "Breaking Us In Two" Is Hard To Do

Initially written as a jingle for the KitKat candy bar, Joe Jackson ended up liking "Breaking Us In Two" so much, he decided to keep it for himself. OK, I made that up. My guess is the song, which peaked at #18 in the US, was an attempt to write a contemporary and yet "classic" sounding romantic standard, and I'd say he more or less succeeded. It certainly opened up the second side of Night and Day with an explosive burst of panache, as if Joe had just pulled back the ornately decorated doors of a ritzy, sparkling ballroom and invited us to walk on in. Nonetheless, the verse has a naggingly familiar feeling. Oh, wait a second, maybe that's because he lifted it from Badfinger's "Day After Day"?

The lyrics veer a bit close to the generic side, with Joe hoping to rhyme "do" with "do" and "us" with "us," without anyone noticing (I noticed), but his corrosive cynicism somehow still manages to shine through. Maybe Joe hadn't yet learned to enjoy the comforts of female companionship, but at least his veins weren't bulging out of his neck anymore while he was complaining about it.
Don't you feel like trying something new
Don't you feel like breaking out
Of breaking us in two
You don't do the things that I do
You want to do things I can't do
Always something breaking us in two

You and I could never live alone
But don't you feel like breaking out
Just one day on your own
Why does what I'm saying hurt you
I didn't say that we were through
Always something breaking us in two

They say two hearts should beat as one for us
We'll fight it out to see it through
I say that won't be too much fun for us
Though it's oh so nice to get advice
It's oh so hard to do

Could we be much closer if we tried
We could stay at home and stare
Into each other's eyes
Maybe we could last an hour
Maybe then we'd see right through
Always something breaking us in two
Bickering aside, with its gentle latin percussion and vibraphone embellishment, the song is like a glamorous ride in a Central Park carriage. Oddly, for a song that oozes such Big Apple atmosphere, the video was clearly filmed in England and seems to be more suited toward an early '70s Rod Stewart or Elton John vibe.

On the whole, the song could probably pass for a genuine Tin Pan Alley standard aside from one arguable error in judgement: the amazingly dated synthesizer solo. Gershwin meets ... E.T.?


Anonymous said...

It is a brilliant song indeed. That "dated" synthesizer solo that you refer to helps define the song and is quite lovely actually.

Deranged said...

I would love to know where the video was filmed. Anyone know?