A good song will stop you and make you think for a moment. But a great song will crack you over the head with a piece of lumber and leave you dazed on the sidewalk, spending the rest of the day crying like a baby, reveling in rapturous beauty, and trying to figure out what life is all about and how you came to be where you are now.
Julien Baker’s “Go Home” is a great song. Months after first discovering it, I’m still reeling from the blunt force trauma it inflicted on me. It’s raw and honest and unsettling. It’s haunting and provocative and beautiful. It’s a jaw-dropping instance of an incredibly talented young songwriter at the top of her game.
To say that the song is dark would be an understatement. It’s downright depressing. Describing a life that has hit rock bottom, Baker laments, “There’s more whiskey than blood in my veins, more tar than air in my lungs.” This is someone at the end of her rope. She is completely broken, and she knows it.
And yet somewhere embedded in the pain of this life careening out of control is a resilient sense of hope. The hope of going home. To a place where there is love and understanding. To a place where there is acceptance and security. To a place where there might even be healing and forgiveness.
The video below is a breathtaking live version of Baker on the piano, pouring out her soul with these words. But I’ve also included the album version of the song, because there’s something highly intriguing about how the song ends as it appears on Baker’s record Sprained Ankle. After four minutes of musically exploring the guilt-ridden themes of addiction and personal failure, it surely can’t be coincidental that Baker would end with an instrumental nod to the modern hymn, “In Christ Alone.” It’s powerful on so many levels.
So here we go. Grab a tissue for your tear ducts, and have a listen: