“Baby Britain” by Elliott Smith

66. Song No. 672: “Baby Britain,” Elliott Smith
XO, 1998

Ooohhhh, this song. This is one I both love immensely and feel deeply in my soul. It’s probably my favorite Elliott Smith song, even though it makes me feel a little too called out.

I absolutely love how the fairly critical lyrics are set against one of the most deceptively upbeat tunes Elliott Smith ever wrote, its sound absolutely being what sucked me in from the first time I heard it. Relating a little too much as I do to the unenviable subject of this song, though, that contrast is an uncomfortably accurate echo of how casually I’m sure the titular individual brushes away major issues.

There are entirely too many lyrics here that make some perpetually annoyed and disappointed part of my brain clear its throat like the only responsible adult in the room who’s completely out of non-passive-aggressive ways to make their long-ignored bids for better decision-making skills and life choices befitting someone who’s got 40 on the horizon. From the opening lines of “Baby Britain feels the best / Floating over a sea of vodka” to the last chorus’ closing pleas of “I can’t help until you start” and all the lines like “Counts the waves that somehow didn’t hit her” and “You’re out swimming in the flood” and “You kept back, you kept unspoken” and “For someone half as smart / You’d be a work of art” in between, this is a song I can’t help but personalize on a terrifically unhealthy level.

But most of all, I deeply envy all the people who can hear “Fights problems with bigger problems” and not feel like their personal mantra is staring right back at them and begging for the confrontation you’ve been putting off for years. Like, honestly: What’s it like not being ruled by the urge to self-sabotage at every turn?

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