Nina’s Magic

I just came across this slowed-down version of “To Love Somebody.”

Nina Simone is such a peculiar singer. At times she can sound completely disconnected from a song. But when she inhabits a song, it feels so laden with meaning and emotion you can barely stand it. “To Love Somebody” is a decent pop song on its own terms, but the lyrics are pretty trite: “You don’t know what it’s like/ To love somebody the way I love you.” But the tritest lyrics – the tritest words in any context – emerge from the entire complexity of being human. And somehow a voice like Nina’s reconnects the lyrics with the whole living-breathing-suffering reality. You end up thinking in the marrow of your bones, “Yeah, you DON’T know what it’s LIKE.”

This is not to meant to be a characterization of her personal psychology, but there’s something autistic about her way of singing. It can completely miss you like you’re not there. Or it can zero in with astonishing focus on the genuine music.

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