Lianne La Havas’ new single “Paper Thin” is potentially the most memorable single since her debut, “Lost & Found.”
The meaningful similarity between the two songs is the clarity of their intention. The initial smooth drum kick mixed with fluttering electric guitar and lyrical bass sets an ethereal and contemplative tone that carries through the entire composition. La Havas’ simple yet pretty melodies and lyrics stick with you like gum on your shoe.
The opening lyrics, “Paper-thin / God only knows the pain you’re in,” is distinctly knowing in its encouragement through an understanding of self-doubt. La Havas, while having a clear perception of the feeling, still deals with the push and pull of knowing you must let a lover go to heal, while also wanting them to let you love them into finding peace. She sings at the end of a verse, “Baby; you gotta roam free / Please don’t forget about me.” La Havas then quickly switches sentiment in the chorus singing, “Just give me the other key / Your heart is an open door / So let me love you.” While being in love with someone in the middle of a journey trying to conquer their pain, it can feel impossible to make a ‘correct’ decision as your impulses lead you in opposing directions.
For most of the song, La Havas maintains a caring, soft tone. She melodically expresses her conflict without anger, but only as a means of loving explanation. Then in the third verse, she speaks on her ability to conquer pain in comparison to her partner. The expression angers her lover, who seems to explode and try to leave. Suddenly, La Havas’ vocal volume increases, and her tone changes as she tries to stop her partner, singing, “Oh no / Don’t go cause I need you so!” Immediately the inflection returns to its previous state as her lover seems to return to the conversation.
La Havas also released a Tiny Desk (At Home) Concert for NPR where she opened with “Paper Thin.” This version, with a visual of just her and her guitar, makes the song feel more like an expression of inner conflict in reflection. While the recorded version felt more immediate, the video self-taping sounded like a La Havas who has come out of tough love anew and revitalized.
La Havas announced the release of her third full length and self-titled album for July 17 this year. The only other song so far released is the dynamic closing track, “Bittersweet,” which also retains a similar clarity and inviting sound. Both songs dive into the grey area of love, in which decision making of whether to stay or go is not as clear from within it.
La Havas is at her best when she rides the fine line between passion and sadness. There is essential beauty in melancholy love, which, if dissected with the right person, can lead to an entirely new outlook. The anticipation of the expansion of this concept on the new project is high.