Premiere: Bridget Kearney Ponders the Death of Empires on “Roman Sunset”

Bridget Kearney © Rodneri
Bridget Kearney © Rodneri
Singer/songwriter Bridget Kearney (of Lake Street Dive) evokes a heavy weight on “Roman Sunset,” a breathtakingly intimate, emotional, and achingly poignant meditation on endings and the death of empires – and the latest single taken off her fourth solo album, ‘Comeback Kid.’
Stream: “Roman Sunset” – Bridget Kearney

Like most people of a certain demographic, I think about ancient Rome all. the. time.

For me, it stems back to 2013, when I visited an exhibit on life (and death) in Pompeii and Herculaneum at the British Museum that deeply humanized that era in human history. Since then, the parallels between the present and 2,000 years’ past have seemed ever-clearer; not to mention, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire is truly fascinating.

And these days, it feels like another empire is starting to fall; the cracks were already there when I was born, but in recent years they’ve grown in number and size. To be clear, political turmoil is nothing new – that’s basically been the United States’ modus operandi since our nation’s founding (if you think it’s bad now, the 1800s were nasty) – but the tension and discord is at an all-time high. People aren’t just living with different opinions; they’re existing in different worlds, being fed different “truths” under the same national roof. As some individuals resort to violence while high courts and states restrict long-held civil rights and liberties… well, how could it not feel like downfall of America? The golden years weren’t even that golden (as of 2022, the country had been at war for 225 out of the 243 years since its founding in 1776), and there’s little hope for national unity in the current climate.

Will the sun go down on Rome again? Yes, it very well might – and on her latest single, Bridget Kearney laments the end as it draws near, with dark, ominous storm clouds looming overhead. The singer/songwriter and Lake Street Dive founding member evokes a heavy weight on “Roman Sunset,” a breathtakingly intimate, emotional, and achingly poignant meditation on endings and the death of empires.

Comeback Kid - Bridget Kearney
Comeback Kid – Bridget Kearney
The sky is changing
The air is new
I feel a strangeness
Coming over you
It’s the old arrangement
Stand two by two
Wait for the warship
To come in on a cruise
Will the sun go down on Rome again?
Will the sun go down on Rome again?

Atwood Magazine is proud, if not a little blue, to be premiering “Roman Sunset,” the melancholic fourth single taken off Bridget Kearney’s forthcoming album Comeback Kid (out April 12, 2024 via Texan indie label Keeled Scales). Following the groovy confessional “Don’t Think About the Polar Bear,” the cinematically sweet, albeit Big Brother-y “Security Camera,” and the beautifully bittersweet, ’80s-esque love song “Obsessed,” the brooding guitars and atmospheric pads of “Roman Sunset” feel like a refreshing, albeit gut-wrenching palate cleanse.

Bridget Kearney © Rodneri
Bridget Kearney © Rodneri

Like the tranquil, placid calm experienced in the eye of the storm, “Roman Sunset” is soft and deceptively serene; the instrumentals are gentle, if not a little ominous, and Kearney’s ever-emotive voice is tender despite the societal turbulence she’s singing about and all the volatility and friction she feels within. Still, her poetic lyrics send shivers down the spine, her haunting words reflecting both on the world she’s living in, and the one that might still be to come.

Barbaric heathens
What have we learned?
From all our believing
And crosses burned
Sanctimonious leaving
No stone unturned
But a battle won is
A battle earned
Will the sun go down on Rome again?
Will the sun go down on Rome again?

“I wrote ‘Roman Sunset’ in November 2020 in the days that me and the rest of the United States spent in hellish limbo awaiting the results of the first Trump vs. Biden presidential election,” Kearney tells Atwood Magazine. “As the votes were being counted and re-counted, we all stood teetering on the precipice between two very different futures. The Trump presidency exposed more hatred and animosity in this country than I ever could have believed existed and fanned the flames of our worst selves into an inferno. Standing on the brink of four more years of that, I honestly didn’t know if we could survive it.”

“This got me thinking about the death of empires and what it feels like to know that something is ending. The shift in the air that takes place. The fear, the resistance, the reality and what it would take to turn the tides. It’s strange to be putting this song out as we begin a second election with the same exact candidates and the same exact critically high stakes. There is an element of defeatism in this song but also a hopefulness that a new path can be forged even in the most trying times, ‘you sink or swim or you learn to fly.'”

Bridget Kearney © Rodneri
Bridget Kearney © Rodneri
If God is angry
Well, who am I
To try to change it
Let live let die
Take it or leave it
Stand down, stand by
You sink or swim or
You learn to fly
And let the sun go down on Rome again
Let the sun go down on Rome again

That “Will the sun go down on Rome again?” becomes “Let the sun go down on Rome again” by the song’s end tells you everything you need to know about Kearney’s perspective. If the end is inevitable, let it come, so that we can start a new beginning. Make no mistake,  nothing about this is easy – and it’s going to hurt – but the only light she sees is the one at the far-end of a long, dark tunnel. So let’s get there, in one piece, together.

Stream “Roman Sunset” exclusively on Atwood Magazine, and stay tuned for more to come as Comeback Kid‘s release date fast approaches! Bridget Kearney new album is out April 12 on Keeled Scales.

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:: stream/purchase Comeback Kid here ::
:: connect with Bridget Kearney here ::
Stream: “Roman Sunset” – Bridget Kearney

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Comeback Kid - Bridget Kearney

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? © Rodneri

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