Matthew LeMay – (Elliott Smith’s) XO

In her article “Art Versus Commerce: Deconstructing a (Useful) Romantic Illusion,” Deena Weinstein suggests that drug use and suicide are common discursive tools for constructing the romantic myth of the artist:

« Critics celebrate romantic rock deaths because they affirm the myth of the artist. A drug overdose, a shotgun suicide, or gangland gangsta slaying; these deaths show, rhetorically, that the romantic artist was authentic, not merely assuming a (Christlike) pose.
The right kind of death is the most powerful authenticity effect, the indefeasible outward sign of inward grace. “The artist must be sacrified to their art; like the bees they must but their lives into sting they give”, Ralph Waldon Emerson wrote. . . .Death isn’t the only authenticity effect embraced by rock writers. They also champion heroin-addicted musicians and rockers who are off their rockers. . . . Addicts and insane are automatically authentic because their grip on rationality is too weak to allow them to “sell-out.” »

Musically, the basics of “Waltz #2” do not seem to have changed much over the song’s numerous lyrical revisions. In an interview with Guitar Player, Smith described his affinity for the type of chord change that gives life to “Waltz #2”:

« I’m kind of a sucker for passing chords, such as when you play a progression like G, D with an F# in the bass, and F. There’s a half-step, descending melody in those types of sequences that I love. The Beatles did that a lot. And that’s what I really like about traditional music. There are ways in which the chords connect to each-other–where certain notes only move a little bit while the main notes move a lot. Anything that has an ascending or descending half-step thing in it always rope me in. »