What do you do when they’re off you, when they suddenly hate you, when nothing you do will bring them back.
Somewhere along the line, Paula Cole became a joke. Sometime between the incessant airplay for "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone" and the ubiquity of "I Don’t Want To Wait". It could have been her airy-fairiness. Maybe the way she took herself so seriously. Or maybe her underarm hair.
Funny, in a country where rappers shoot each other and people bleed all over the screen, we’re offended by mother nature. Then again, she flaunted it, it was a badge of honor. It was like Paula Cole functioned in an alternative universe. So we made fun of her. And then she was done. Just another late nineties one hit wonder. Well, in this case, two hits.
But almost fifteen years ago, before her hits, long before Napster, when the business was expanding rather than contracting, Paula Cole was the great hope of a new start-up label known as Imago Records, formed by one half of the famed Chrysalis team, Terry Ellis.
Despite failing to chart, Paula Cole’s first album, "Harbinger", included a stunner of a track. "I Am So Ordinary".
There are some people who are winners. They make the decisions. The world is their oyster. Then there’s the rest of us. We’re not quite good-looking enough, not quite rich enough. We yearn to be popular, one of the group, to have the rewards of society, but even though we try, we keep getting bounced out, we get a little traction and then we lose our grip.
Sometimes we know they’re just passing through, we’ve only got them for a little while. We’re just not enough. Our totality doesn’t fill their cup. We’ll give them everything, but they want something different.
In "I Am So Ordinary", Paula is devoted to a man. She says he can use her, not to abandon her, because he NEEDS her.
But he doesn’t seem to be aware of this.
You know how you know? THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO MEET THEIR PARENTS!
That’s the definitive test. If they go back home without you, if their ‘rents come to town and the logistics bar connection, then you know you’re never going to win this battle, you’re always going to remain on the outside. Oh, they’ll call you in the middle of the night, scared of the dark, they’ll push their body onto yours, but when it counts, in public, they’re nowhere to be seen. You tell yourself they’re going to wake up, they’re going to realize how much they need you, how they’re less without you, but rationality doesn’t seem to be a factor, they break it off and move on.
Paula Cole FEELS ordinary, inadequate. The fact that you rejected her, just when she felt free to reveal her true identity in public caused her to retreat into the woodwork, take herself off the stage, in the hope that you’d forget her. The pain was just too much.
Do you feel ordinary? Do you look in the mirror and see the imperfections? Do you try out your best lines on the opposite sex and get empty stares in return? Paula does. And when she sees his new paramour on the back of his motorcycle, a woman prettier and more talented, she dies on the inside.
I’ve died on the inside. I’ve taken to my bed. Laid prone. Feeling worthless. And the music I want to listen to is something akin to "14" from Paula Cole’s new album.
I got e-mail from this woman Kim Zimmer. Somewhere in far Eastern Canada, a woman I’ve never met. She had this to say:
"If you’re looking for inspiration from a real artist who speaks honestly from the heart, check out the video Paula Cole has put on her website. (In the About section, page down to the Where has Paula been? video.)"
Real artist? Well, I don’t know about that. But, I loved "I Am So Ordinary", and can still listen to "I Don’t Want To Wait", and Paula was great on Peter Gabriel’s "Secret World Live", so I clicked through.
Paula looked a little fuller, a little older. Like someone from the old neighborhood you hadn’t seen in a few years, but whom you knew. And there was this lack of certitude that appealed to me. Bobby Colomby convinced her to make another record, she was DONE! And this was what she’d created.
Well, that’s not all. There was also enough new age philosophy to turn anybody’s stomach. I guess Paula Cole really is that art chick. Not the beautiful one in high school you wanted to fuck, but the WEIRD ONE! Still, the music… The feel appealed to me. Reminded me of lying on my high school bed reading "Cat’s Cradle", in my own little world, removed from society. And there was this one couplet I couldn’t get out of my mind.
But I was 14 with my passion,
And 15 with my best.
I felt that this song was a reflection upon Paula’s teenage years. Before you’re completely beaten down by society, when you believe you can still win.
Now I’m not so sure. Now I think the numbers represent a scale, akin to Nigel Tufnel saying his amp goes to 11 in "Spinal Tap". Paula delivered MORE than enough in so many categories. Still, it wasn’t enough.
Your eyes they conjure up those Cliffs of Moher,
Far away and not listening anymore,
Dreaming of life on another shore,
Not here, not now, with me, the bore.
I had to google "Cliffs of Moher". Turns out they’re in Ireland. Was the man Paula had her child with from Ireland?
But whoever he is, he’s not LISTENING ANYMORE! Nothing’s more frustrating. When you’re talking and it’s like you’re not. He’s gone. Because she’s a bore.
Can you be honest about yourself? Everybody trying to make it in the entertainment world says how fucking GREAT THEY ARE! Paula’s evidencing something beyond self-doubt, she’s MORTIFIED! What’s worse than to be BORING!
So I stop talking and fade to bleak,
Feeling insignificant, atrophied and weak.
Even though it’s not who I know myself to be,
The Queen, the Confidence,
I stopped talking. It just wasn’t worth it. And I haven’t quite recaptured the ability to let it all out, I’m not quite back on the bicycle. And believe me, "bleak" is a proper description, any hope you have is minimal and fleeting. Deep inside you believe you’re someone different. Believe me, I can be the life of the party. But that happens so rarely anymore. Rather, I’m the listener, as so-called friends inundate me with their stories, their everyday comings and goings.
But I was 14 with my passion,
And 15 with my best.
16 with my ego,
And zero with the rest.
My heart is a P.O.W. tangled in my chest,
I don’t know how to communicate in a cardiac arrest.
Like I said, I don’t know exactly what Paula means here, what the numbers refer to. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it. I know that someone will e-mail me the truth, they’ll be laughing at me. Or, as soon as I hit "send" it will come to me. But I comprehend the underlying concept. Of not being enough. Of being a superstar in certain areas, but batting zero in others. And feeling bad about yourself, and feeling their contempt, you DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!
So I stop talking, baby, cause you always want me to shut up.
Take the center stage meanwhile I become your trusted, silent prop.
So take good care, this mighty woman’s ready to explode,
Fire here below the surface of my volcano.
Oh, you think you’re the winner, the leader in the relationship. And then suddenly everything flips, goes topsy-turvy. You lose all your confidence, suddenly they seem out of your league, poised and perfect, smarter and more erudite than you could ever hope to be.
Then they’re gone. And at first you lick your wounds, then you get ANGRY!
But there’s no one to listen, no one to vent your anger to.
I’ve yelled in front of the mirror. On my way from the bedroom to the kitchen. Driving down the freeway. It comes upon me suddenly, the rejection, the disappointment, not only in love, but business. There’s RAGE!
Rickie Lee Jones did an album entitled "Girl At Her Volcano". Consider me to be the boy at his volcano. But rather than a piano, I’m banging on a keyboard, sitting in front of the computer, just hoping someone will listen, trying to convince myself that I matter.
To listen to "14", go to: Paula Cole, "14" is the song that starts to play after the page fully loads.