Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories – Stay (I Missed You)

First Hit #1: August 6, 1994

While the charts were dominated by divas singing ballads, Lisa Loeb is much closer to the sound I associate with the mid-90s. It wasn’t the only sound of the decade, of course, grunge was steadily growing and hip hop had an increasing amount of cultural relevance, but Loeb and similar artists were a large component of what I remember, a certain coffee-house inspired bit of folk pop that defined the kinder, gentler side of the time. They represented an antidote to the bombast of most of the big divas. Loeb had slightly dorky glasses, her singing voice was really nice but much more grounded, and her song had complicated acoustic guitars but was largely pared down in arrangement. If the larger than life sound of the other big hits of the era left you cold, Loeb had the alternative, and it was something that felt a bit more real than the vocal acrobatics of her chart contemporaries.

In an era where sitcoms were increasingly putting trendy coffee houses in the forefront as their big locations, Loeb put out a song that sounded like it would belong in that environment, and fit the image of the slightly trendy, slightly well off type of person who would drink complicated coffees at such a place. Other big trends of the era would seem out of place in that environment. I know this sounds incredibly dismissive, but I genuinely like the sound, and I appreciate the need to fit music to the environment in which it is played. This kind of folk pop was the perfect compliment to a certain urbanite fantasy that took root in the decade, and as such things go, it’s one of those trends that I can actually understand quite well, even if I don’t personally drink coffee. It’s a nice place to be, and even if the song is about Loeb breaking up with a lover, it’s also a nice song for the time. It’s also refreshing to hear a song that proves that going big isn’t the only way to get attention.

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3 Responses to Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories – Stay (I Missed You)

  1. RBerman says:

    “Girls with guitars” aptly describes the whole Lilith Fair movement, with three-hit wonder Loeb surprisingly hitting the top before (and in some cases instead of) the more famous representatives of the genre. Soul-bearing female singer-songwriters as a group hadn’t been this successful since Carole King and Carly Simon in the ’70s. They came out of the woodwork in all shapes, sizes, and sanity levels during the mid-’90s. Newcomers like Sheryl Crow, Jewel Kilcher, Sarah McLachlan, Alanis Morrisette, Tori Amos, Paula Cole, and Fiona Apple boosted neglected ’80s stalwarts like Natalie Merchant, Melissa Etheridge, Tracy Chapman, and Indigo Girls. Not a one of them didn’t owe their careers to the great trailblazer Joni Mitchell, whose 1974 “Court and Spark” album remains the Everest of the genre.

    The “woman singing my song” to which Loeb referred was not a specific song on a specific occasion, but rather the idea that one person’s experiences, aptly related, can resonate with others, which is the goal toward which every singer-songwriter aspires. Loeb achieves that goal herself, with some terrific lines in blank verse (unusual for a pop song) analyzing the complicated power dynamic between quarreling lovers: “Some of us hover when we weep for the other who was dying since the day they were born. Well, this is not that: I think that I’m throwing, but I’m thrown.” The one who leaves first can seem to be the powerful one, without actually being so.

    Loeb’s song also joins a dying market trend (songs from movies) to a potent future trend: Indie releases that find a way to the mass market consumer, apart from the “star-maker machinery behind the popular song” of which Joni Mitchell spoke twenty years prior.

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