There has to be a certain level of frustration as a modern singer songwriter when the masses misunderstand a song or find a different meaning in a song you wrote than the message that you originally intended. For Def Jam artist Troi Irons, "Today" might just be that song. But something amazing has happened with "Today". Something wholly unique that does happen in music, but not often. Different generations who listen to it are genuinely hearing a different song. To younger people who understand depression and sadness, it is an anthem of hope. A song about embracing your true feelings without letting them own or define you or break you. Yet baby boomers (and older) who hear it think it is a pro-suicide song.
The baby boomers (per usual) could not be more wrong. The sound of hope even crescendos in the song’s final moments, filling the listener with sonic resonance that feels like a warm arm around your shoulder, holding you up.
Doesn’t hurt that it is a perfectly constructed song and executed with ‘vulnerable bravado’ by Troi (I just coined that term and I do think Troi Irons worthy of it).
Let’s take a look at "Today", or rather, a deep listen or three.
Today I Feel Like Suicide….
I was achingly depressed the first time I hear this song. The great musical Gods brought Troi’s music to me via Spotify, and the opening line (and the whisper vocals she uses to not only tell you but EXPRESS those feelings) just grabbed me and never let go. I think that opening line is where the most people get hung up:
Today I feel like suicide.
Couple things I need to point out. At no point is she saying today I feel like committing suicide.
She says Today I FEEL Like Suicide, as if she is death itself, embodied. I’m sorry but we all know those days. The days when we don’t wanna leave our beds and can’t fake a smile even if we try. "Today" is about that day, those feelings, but what is essential is listening to the rest of the song, and how, the further Troi sings, the louder and more powerful her vocals (and guitar) get until they are sonically combined into one beast and making you realize, like she says in the song itself, I just wanna find my paradise, too!
Who cannot relate to longing for that?
So don’t hear the first line of the song and the hollow echo of the guitar and let that throw you off here.
This song is much deeper than you think, but not six feet deep, like most people keep assuming. There is beauty to be found in admitting you are sad and coming to terms with that. It takes the bravest of brave souls to do that even for themselves, for so Troi Irons to write something that left her so so naked and vulnerable in front of so many is bravery embodied.
That, alone, gives strength when listening. If she can do, maybe we can, too!
Today’s Musical Composition
At first listen you will hear a similar sounding progression to the opening chords of The Funeral by Band of Horses (which, in turn, is also the same as The Prayer by Kid Cudi). An earworm three-chord progression with some really sweet lead played over the whole thing, keeping it from being a simple pop song and making it into a more layered and beautiful creature.
But there is major delight to be found in the crescendo of the song, marked by Troi sing-screaming “I just wanna find sweet paradiiIIIIIIIIIIIISSSEEEEE". The scream is perfect (some singers can do it, some can’t. Troi can) bringing up musical memories of women like Melissa Etheridge and Aritha Franklin, who could SING, if you know what I mean? Singing is a lost art with branding being everything now, and that is not who Troi Irons is. Though she is beautiful, her social media is void of selfies. She doesn’t try to push her (frankly, fucking beautiful badass punk biker meets Seattle rocker) vibe or herself as an image on anyone, and stands firmly behind the belief that music speaks for itself, which her does at very high volumes. You don’t have to look cool or be beautiful to make music. I think Troi just got lucky and somehow, still is incredibly humble, despite having an IT factor that lesser musicians would cut a digit off for.
But again, I must remind you, one must not get lost of focus solely on the (somewhat heart wrenching) lyrics:
Today I feel so paralyzed.
They say that I don't give my best,
I gave my all, got nothing left.
Today I feel like suicide,
No one here to second guess,
It's just me and my own breath.
It is raw, so raw you feel it. So raw you know EXACTLY what she is talking about, and you know
that feeling and that place. It is easy to hear that and think “this is an ode to suicide” but it is, like I stated prior, anything but. To get those lyrics out of the context of the song is to NOT hear the song. I mean actually HEAR it.
You see, the whole point of Today is….
The Hope is Found At The Musical Crescendo and Outro
Think of the song "Today" like three acts. In the first act, Troi Irons is in bed and she feels heavy in her soul, like someone tossed wet blanket over it. Even the fragility of the opening notes being finger-picked over delicately (she is a sick guitarist, too, this is not a woman playing behind a band) to drive that lethargy home. It is vacant and sad and takes you where you need to be at that moment.
Second verse, sad but beginning to see hope, she is getting out of bed. By the end of the second verse, once she is out of proverbial bed, it is like she TRULY finally believes what she was saying about wanting to find paradise and she just belts out the vocal scream I mentioned before, and the song explodes like fireworks.
Suddenly, she is jamming out and what felt like sadness melts away. Her guitar suddenly is shooting off musical bottle rockets that make you forget you were just in bed, hopeless, one verse ago. A song that sounds hopeless and is about feeling hopeless kills its own hopelessness by the end, replacing it with genuine hope, musically.
If you can recognize and admit and own up to the sadness inside you, that is brave and huge, and if you do that, you get one step closer to shaking that very feeling.
One other key thing about "Today" is…
Today is About Today (and Maybe Tomorrow, but NOT About Forever)
"Today" isn’t named “Always” or “Tomorrow” or “Forever” for a reason. The song is not called “Suicide” for a reason. The song is called “Today” because it captures that feeling she had, that one day, that we all get from time to time, and yet, here she is, 1000 todays later, still doing it and doing it even better now (new album about to launch September 23rd, titled Turbulence). So now any kid who hears the song, any little girl who may feel lost or hopeless, can hear what that sadness sounds like, epitomized, and then can also hear what breaking free from it sounds like in the same song, too. That is huge in itself.
Also, extra points for Troi’s skills on guitar. She handles it the way people like Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix used to, like it is a genuine extension of her and how she emotes, and between that, her skills as a songwriter, and how well executed this song is, I believe we have a musical deity on our hands here, folks, and more people need to know about her. So tell people about her….
Today, preferably, if you have time.
Keep your eyes on Troi Irons, she is making music music again. You know, with actual instruments and genuine emotion, both which are sorely lacking in music these days.