Susan Calloway – Time for This
Susan Calloway’s career trajectory is reflective of the times we live in. It is highly unusual for a performer, even now, to achieve the level of prominence Calloway has reached on the backs of a video game soundtrack, but Detroit based Calloway’s single “Answers” for 2013’s Final Fantasy XIV struck a resonant chord with music and gaming fans alike. It’s an achievement comfortably ranking alongside the success of her debut EP Chasin’ the Sun and numerous appearances in high profile venues in places like London’s Royal Albert Hall, Tokyo’s Tokyo International Forum, and concert venues in other far flung locales like Paris, Montreal, New York City, and Los Angeles. These star turns have helped Calloway build an impressive fan base and social media presence while her creative partnership with producer Gerard Smerek continues to produce impressive artistic results. The latest result of that aforementioned partnership, “Time for This”, features her singer/songwriter skills at the zenith of their potential.
The gorgeously lyrical piano takes a stately pace through the song’s nearly four minute running time and develops the musical motifs with a light, highly artful touch. A light sheen of keyboards enters the mix shortly after the one minute mark and they serve the same function as strings might in the piece by further fleshing out the composition and imbuing it with some added heft. The crescendos come at all of the right times in the piece, but they never present themselves in a heavy handed way – instead, the piano builds a bit of added tension by concentrating on a heavier end of the sonic spectrum without ever overplaying or breaking the slow stride of the song. Despite the pacing, the arrangement never feels inert, but instead breathes free and easy with confident melodic grace.
The lyrics are equally exceptional. It is no stretch to say that this isn’t far removed from the material that a young Joni Mitchell might be writing if she were starting out today and, if Calloway sports some obvious influences from artists like Mitchell and her creative progeny, those influences are so seamlessly absorbed into Calloway’s experiences and emotions that they are utterly transformed into something uniquely her own. The rhymes, if they are predictable, are predictable in the best possible way – there’s a sense of inevitability born from emotional truth informing every line and there isn’t a single wasted or extraneous word in the entire composition.
It’s her voice, however, above all else that sells this performance. There’s some smoky gravitas, significant vocal range, and precise yet bluesy phrasing that elevates the fine lyrical content to something even greater. Calloway is living every word of this song as she sings them and her close adherence to the piano playing, without ever directly mimicking the melody, invests the song as a whole with considerable dramatic effect. “Time for This” has a little bitterness, tempered by heartbreak, in every note, but it’s ultimately that note of regret and sorrow filling the track that will move listeners most of all.