from the first moment I saw you I knew that I could never be enough for you.
we meet our main character...
he is at once the pathetic admirer of an unnamed object of infatuation – and a scathing critic.
this object is clearly untouchable… perfect. he wants desperately to connect in some way, but understands all too well the difference between being the lover and being the beloved. so he simply observes... pulled into her seemingly perfect, online world. (we can easily imagine him waiting for hours in anticipation of the next update from his unnamed object of infatuation...) he knows the fiction. still, he buys into the game.
he is plagued by conflicting emotions. initial self-doubt is followed by a naive hopefulness which, in turn, gives way to a harsh realization: “I’m so stupid. that’s a real thing.” and so, there is a hint of anger in his admiration. he praises the the object of his admiration’s ability to play the game, proclaiming: “you’re the Best in Show…” and yet, this is ultimately a hollow superlative…an empty award. and our main character knows it, which reveals an interesting absurdity: he criticizes himself for his inability to participate in this world of show, while he simultaneously condemns others for their ability to successfully do so.
as the song progresses, his frustration increases. “show the real thing,” he pleads. but does he withdraw? can he withdraw?
A seemingly odd way to start off the album…“Best in Show” is sparse, dry, and hints at desperation. There are no background vocals…no serious musical accompaniment. And this was entirely intentional.
At its heart, the song is a satire—its target being the lack of authenticity in modern society as a whole. The way we present ourselves to others bares little resemblance to the people we actually are. Technology simultaneously unites and separates us. While there is a beauty to the idea that anyone can be anything online, the reality is that this freedom, and the type of arm’s length interaction it encourages, creates a false sense of security in which people rarely showcase their best selves.
In order to match the overall theme of the song, the music needed to create a sense of isolation. For this reason, instrumentation is limited. The upper and lower frequencies are occupied by a sole keyboard part and a simple drum beat respectively. Old-school 808 kick, snare, and hat create an air of nostalgia, invoking an era that was perhaps more authentic and raw. This authenticity is precisely what the main character secretly craves.
The musical sparsity also serves another purpose: it creates the space in which the sole voice of the main character resides. As much as possible, the listener needs to feel connected to this character—if not actually in his shoes, then at least in the same room. For this reason, the voice is dry, seemingly unaffected, with little to no reverb or echo—in short, anything that might create a sense of distance between the main character and the listener was avoided. Imperfections remain—they, too, help to decrease the overall space and increase authenticity. (*On a related note: the coughing was not intentional, but was one of those ‘happy accidents’ that seemed to add to the overall feel of the song. And so, it stayed.)
A certain amount of thought and effort was put into extending the song—building it musically in order to truly showcase the main character’s frustration. While this resulted in some interesting versions which may be developed further (and possibly released later), ultimately, the sparsity and brevity leave the listener somewhat unsatisfied, which better suits the overall theme. On its own, “Best in Show” doesn’t fully deliver; yet, as the intro to the album, it provides the emotional backdrop—the starting point for the tumultuous journey which follows.