(Re)discovering Joni Mitchell

Writing a review about Joni Mitchell is like trying to rewrite Beauty and the Beast, but I just recently ‘discovered’ her. I figured there’s no harm in sharing my opinion. Actually my first encounter with Mitchell’s music was in the movie Love Actually, where Mitchell’s music provides the ’emotional education’ of one of the main characters. The song Both Sides Now provides the backdrop for a highly emotional sequence in the movie, lending an earthy touch to the otherwise sparse scene with Mitchell’s round, space-filling voice.
Around the same time of my life, a friend told me that Blue was a must-hear album. I immediately got my hands on the album, excited for it, but – don’t hate me for this – I couldn’t really appreciate the album. Mitchell’s voice was almost too heavy for me; I felt like I was being borne down under the weight of the music. But I gave her a chance again recently, after hearing a cover of Blue by Cat Power. I have to say, this time around she’s managed to capture my fancy the way I expected her to the first time. Listening to her album, I’m realizing how many of her songs I’ve actually heard before, covered by other people. I had no idea. Of course there’s Blue, But there are more. I’ve been listening to A Case of You sung by Cristina Branco for so long now, but never once realized that it was a cover of Mitchell’s song. I heard Ritchie Havens’ version of Woodstock, too, with no idea of where it came from. Now that I’ve ‘discovered’ Joni Mitchell, though, I haven’t been able to change the album and listen to something else. Mitchell’s voice, her lyrics, the instrumentation, the arrangement, everything has kind of captured my attention and entranced me.
I do have to say I’m not a huge fan of some of the more upbeat songs, like All I Want on Blue. I think Mitchell’s style of singing as well as the timbre of her voice are better suited to the slow, melodic, pensive type of song. I do appreciate her versatility in singing, but I can’t personally enjoy the more bouncy songs.
Both Sides Now and Blue are probably my favorite songs of Mitchell’s right now. It might change, but the fullness of her voice and the depth of the emotion it convey are really worth listening to at least in recognition of the influence Mitchell’s music has had on folk and pop music of today.
Mitchell also managed to deal with issues that women of her time could not really tackle on a general basis, like sexual freedoms. ‘My Old Man’ tells of the joys of cohabitation without marriage. ‘We don’t need no piece of paper from the City Hall,’ she sings. She also deals openly with themes of solitude and loneliness. I think Mitchell’s songs will definitely play a part in my own ’emotional education’.

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