Joni Mitchell’s “Blue”: Setting the Standard for Singer-Songwriters – M8Q2

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In 1971, now critically-acclaimed and highly influential singer-songwriter, Joni Mitchell broke the conventions of folk style, creating a highly individual 10-song suite titled: Blue. This would be the album that kick-started her career, turned Joni Mitchell into a household name, and set the standard for all future singer-songwriters to follow. Listed below are three pieces from the album that exemplify this set standard through the transformation of folk lyrics, melody, and accompaniment into a deeply personal reflection of life and love.

A Case of You:

“A Case of You” reflects a relationship that has come and gone – sung as a conscience admission of the relationship’s end. Mitchell’s lyrics carry a level of poetic skill that constructs  vivid imagery in the minds of her listeners; this song is a prime example of the poetic skill that Mitchell is known for and the standard for other artists to try to match. As the title of the song discusses regarding the relationship, Mitchell could “drink a case” of this person and “still be on [her] feet” – a very sobering thought that leaves a strong impression on those who hear it.

This Flight Tonight:

“This Flight Tonight” tells the story of Mitchell’s conflict as she boards a plane, leaving her lover. The rapid-fire delivery of these lyrics could be compared to Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” but with more musicality. This piece specifically highlights how Mitchell took the conventions of folk style and transformed them into a design of her own – filled with highly poetic lyrics, unpredictable melody, and unique rhythmic accompaniment.

My Old Man:

In “My Old Man,” Mitchell describes her significant other at the time and how he made her feel. It should be noted that while one’s “old man” is commonly referring to a father figure in today’s vernacular, the term was more-so used in reference to a boyfriend when the song was released. This tune has Mitchell playing the piano instead of the dulcimer like in most of the other tracks; this displays her multiple talents as a musician. The main feature to listen for in this piece is the distinct shift in mood when Mitchell describes how she feels with her partner near and when he is absent – switching from a happy-sounding major key to a sad-sounding minor key then back to the major key. Mitchell’s use of vivid imagery, distinctive melody and harmony, and solo piano playing in this piece further reinforce the significance of this album to the world of music.

Sources:

Chalkley, Olivia (Uploader). “Joni Mitchell-A Case of You”. YouTube video, 4:24. Posted [Aug 24, 2009].https://youtu.be/0YuaZcylk_o . (accessed November 18, 2016).

Davies, Christian T (Uploader). “Joni Mitchell – This Flight Tonight”. YouTube video, 2:53. Posted [Dec 22, 2012]. https://youtu.be/Rxs8wz4Vb9w. (accessed November 18, 2016).

“Joni Mitchell – Blue – Album.” http://www.jonimitchell.com/music/album.cfm?id=5. (Accessed November 18, 2016).

TrixxyKatt (Uploader). “Joni Mitchell – My Old Man”. YouTube video, 3:41. Posted [Sep 9, 2013]. https://youtu.be/t4cHbcgFt9Y. (accessed November 18, 2016).

“Why Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ Is the Greatest Relationship Album Ever.” The Atlantic.  http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/02/why-joni-mitchells-blue-is-the-greatest-relationship-album-ever/273147/. (Accessed November 18, 2016).