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Kate Miller-Heidke: A Clear-Eyed Confession

Kate Miller-Heidke's "Caught In The Crowd" is a tale of adolescence, but it skirts the issue of romance. That might have been in the cards somewhere down the line for the singer and the boy named James, but it's irrelevant to what actually happened and why it was important. Instead, the song plays like the other side of Janis Ian's "At Seventeen" -- it's a clear-eyed portrait of a teenager who, confronted with a decision, made precisely the wrong one and feels pangs of regret to this day.

Of course, Miller-Heidke relates the story now, as an adult, but she makes a few crucial choices in the way she frames it. The verses are essentially straight reportage, told as a series of events. The implication is that editorializing would be cheating, but worse than that, it would let her off the hook, and she's not willing to do that. She finally allows herself some reflection when she gets to the chorus, but she doesn't let herself say much; just enough to express her regret and shame. By now, she's mature enough to realize that she betrayed not only James, but also herself.

That last point is made subtly, almost subliminally, by the melody Miller-Heidke sings for the verse. It's staid and measured, right up until the part where she and James begin opening up to one another. And then, as soon as she's exposed to a world of possibilities that she never knew existed, the melody itself seems to open its eyes and start to shine, becoming more effervescent and full of life. That's probably why, in the last verse, she gently repeats the line in which she makes her final move, as if still in disbelief. Miller-Heidke received a lesson from the experience, but she doesn't like what she's learned.

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Marc Hirsh lives in the Boston area, where he indulges in the magic trinity of improv comedy, competitive adult four square and music journalism. He has won trophies for one of these, but refuses to say which.
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