Brandy Clark clearly learned well the wisdom of the legendary Harlan Howard, in knowing that a good country song is “three chords and the truth.” That truth is what Brandy Clark exquisitely phrased in her beautiful performance of “Love Can Go to Hell,” on the fourth hour of “Today” for Jan. 31. Contrary to what some might think, the sentiment still suited morning TV just fine. Like so much of her music, the song is not about hatred against anyone, no neglectful lover, not even oneself. The singer-songwriter weaves a very quiet, yet real, rage against the ravages that even a wrong love leaves behind, and the reminiscences that never seem to lose their longing quality.
Brandy Clark details all that runs through the soul in a “broken heartbeat minute” after good-byes, and how just moving on through the motions of life, “go to church and fold my hands” and “call some friends and make some plans,” still doesn't do much about mending a soul, and inebriation only brings a false anesthesia, with its hangover to boot. “Heaven knows I wish you well/No I don't blame you at all/No I don't hate you at all,” the emphatic verses lead to “it's all love’s fault.” Every listener feels where the true sense of blame lies—in the failure to let memories go, and the only cure for that is time taking another risk on that awful thing, love. As long as there is life, there will be hurt, but moments of heaven can be worth years of heartache, it’s all part of the divine exchange. It's no coincidence that right before “Love Can Go to Hell” on her Grammy nominated “Big Day in a Small Town” album is “You Can Come Over.” The emotional tumult of life and love always wrestles with push and pull.
Brandy Clark is a self-proclaimed fan of Kathie Lee and Hoda, calling this “Today” showcase “a big one,” and gushing that “I watch their segment whenever I can” to countryschatter.com. The prolific composer for others is clearly chuffed have this song “by me” up for Best Country Solo Performance. She brought huge hits to The Band Perry with “Better Dig Two,” a number one for Miranda Lambert with “Mama’s Broken Heart,” and her breakout 2014 hit “Follow Your Arrow” co-written with Kacey Musgraves and Shane McAnally.
Touches like the cello and violin overlays in this tune don’t make Brandy Clark too high-brow to relate to real life. Songs like “Three Kids No Husband,” “Broke,” and “Soap Opera,” say everything needed about the songwriter’s grounding in the real world. Now that Brandy Clark has a name for herself as premier artist, only promising horizons lie ahead. As Barry Mazer praised in The Washington Post, the gift to “memorialize human lives, with this level of care” conveys the quality of music “that's meant to last.” Brandy Clark has no reason to be packing bags for years to come.