Sarah Jaffe’s “Clementine” Songwriting and Musical Analysis
Sarah Jaffe is a songwriter and guitarist who is known for her experimentation, versatility, and sheer spontaneity. Her experimental aims are evident in her acoustic folk, hip hop, and indie rock writing careers. This was evident in her song ‘Clementine,’ which appeared on her 2008 EP ‘Ever Born Again.’
‘Clementine’ is an exquisitely written, composed, and arranged song. When Jaffe and her band were playing at Arkansas and didn’t have enough songs to finish the performance, they wrote this song as a filler. The song was created in a friend’s dorm room and performed in front of a live audience the same day, according to the vocalist.
So, what makes “Clementine” so special? Here, we dissect the complexities of the songwriting that went into “Clementine.”
The lyrical quality
If one only reads the lyrics of “Clementine,” it appears to be poetry that expresses despair and apathy about one’s sweetheart. The song immediately establishes this by beginning with the lines:
“50 states, 50 lines, 50 people sobbing all the time, 50 people crying all the time, 50 people crying all the time, 50 people crying all the
50 males, 50 “I’m going to change my mind, I’m going to change my mind, I’m going to change my mind, I’m
I’ve changed my opinion, I’ve changed my mind, and now I’m undecided.”
…together with Jaffe’s crystal-clear vocals.
The narrator describes how things were when she was younger in the first stanza. She tells the audience that when it comes to love relationships, she has seen and heard it all and that she has grown disinterested in them.
The narrator reflects on her younger days when she was more carefree in the second verse. Unlike the first verse, which is about her displeasure with someone else, this lyric is about her growing awareness of her own vulnerabilities.
“I wish I was a little more delicate….. I wish my name was Clementine,” she says in the chorus, implying passion. Clementine is an English word that means “gentle.” The song’s regretful subject alludes to the notion that she has become too heartless over the years.
The element of music
Despite the lyrics’ general melancholy, the music uses a brighter sounding chord sequence to evoke a sense of desire and detachment. The bass has a great role in this tune. The song has a great folksy vibe because of the descending bass line that outlines the chord. While the bass stays in the background for most of the verses, it takes the lead in the gaps with a lovely melody. This sticks out so much that it immediately grabs the attention of the audience.
“Clementine” is a unique song in terms of songwriting because it defies standard songwriting conventions. Jaffe accomplishes this by playing a muted beat on one of the guitars, generating a percussive impact that adds to the song’s depth. The cello, along with the guitar, follows suit before taking over the bass role. The cello permits the bass to venture out by playing the chord tones.
“Clementine’s” folk “soul” is evocative of the song “500 Miles.” Bobby Bare initially sang the song, which became famous in Europe and the United States during the 1960s folk revival movement.
While the guitar plays a simple chord sequence in the background, “500 Miles” focuses around the central idea of the recurrent lyrics “[…a hundred miles…”].
The general arrangement of the song ‘Clementine’ is done in such a way that the emotions expressed in the words are reflected in the music. The song builds in intensity as the lyrics depict the vocalist’s displeasure, then drops off when the singer begins to self-reflect in the chorus. It’s as if the music itself symbolizes the clementine’s peaceful and merciful message.