La Cienega Just Smiled
by Ryan Adams
Ahh, where to start with this gem. YOU start by listening to it, of course. Doesn’t it start beautifully? Simple, soft, understated. Really setting the tone.
And setting the tone is what this song is all about. If it weren’t, we’d hear these lyrics and cringe, and this song would be relegated to 50 years of Hallmark movie soundtracks. But we don’t, and it’s not.
The lovely setup starts with this line:
oh, the night, here it comes again
it’s on with the jeans, the jacket and shirt
Is there any better outfit, any attire more perfect for our best memories? No, no there isn’t. The Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts have it again. (Apparently, Ryan Adams didn’t include his trademark glasses in this short list of things to wear for the coming night. Perhaps he tried but the syllables didn’t line up.)
I expect that he was well past his teenage years when he wrote this, yet it feels like one of those perfect teen love anthems. He says, “and I’m too scared to know how I feel about you now”, and I think about when I was 18 and I was completely in love, and I was scared to death. And then he says, “and [I] raise my glass ‘cause either way I’m dead.” That’s terrific teenage fatalist hyperbole right there, folks. Totally petrified, but not running away - willing to raise a glass of bodily destruction to the destruction of his soul.
The end of the night comes around, the jeans, the jacket, and the shirt come off, and all ‘La Cienega’ said was “I’ll see you around”, and she smiled and waved goodbye. Still, he’s holding her close in the back of his mind, and that’s almost enough.