Exclusive Premiere: “Dammit Joanna” exclaims Alexis Babini

Alexis Babini press
Alexis Babini press
Recommended If You Like: Billy Joel, Train, Beirut, Jimmy Buffett

Dammit Joanna, must we go through this again?

There is a time for cryptic poetry, and there is a time for blatant forthrightness. Each lyrical approach has its proper place in music, and a good songwriter knows when and how best to use both techniques together and independently of each other. When it comes to matters of the heart, honesty is generally the best policy: If you love someone, let them know. If there’s trouble in paradise, say what’s on your mind and don’t hold back. Communication is key, and nowhere is this better represented than on indie singer/songwriter Alexis Babini’s new song “Dammit Joanna.”

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering “Dammit Joanna” today. Babini’s second single off his upcoming EP Eh, “Dammit Joanna” paints Babini as a helpless lover at his wit’s end with Joanna, a woman of interest.

Dammit Joanna, must we go through this again?
How can I be your man when you’re in the arms of all those other men?
When you smile at another with all of your beauty and grace
I always discover someone could always take my place

Listen: “Dammit Joanna” – Alexis Babini

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A light and boppy introduction with a Carribean-flavored percussion beat and short, sharp horn blasts sets a seemingly carefree scene. By the time this song has started, Babini wants us to think he has already given up hope and moved on; that he is well past the begging and pleading stage. He isn’t trying to fix things anymore, so much as he is trying to let dear Joanna know what and how she did him wrong. He requires closure, and “Dammit Joanna” is his chance to speak untethered.

“Dammit Joanna, must we go through this again?” asks Babini against strong drums and a forcefully-strummed ukulele. “How can I be your man when you’re in the arms of all those other men?” One can imagine these words being sung over tears, or shouted out of anger, but crooned in such a manner as this? Babini is trying his best to celebrate his freedom, rather than brood over a loss. “When you smile at another with all of your beauty and grace, I always discover someone could always take my place.” Airy, ringing percussive notes add a euphoric texture to the mix that continues to grow as “Dammit Joanna” progresses. It’s a convincing enough musical performance, but it leaves one wondering what true feelings remain underneath Babini’s happy music.

Dammit Joanna, don’t you think I’d know by now?
There will always be someone to catch you if you ever fall down
But don’t you ever wonder why your lonesome song rings so true?
Because I think it’s so sad – nothing bad ever happens to you

Eh? - Alexis Babini
Eh? – Alexis Babini

Brutally honest and a tad tongue-in-cheek, Babini’s stinging rhymes ring with heartache and defeat. The narrator wants Joanna to feel his pain, but he fears she won’t care if he sings solely of his perspective – so he makes it about her. “Nothing bad ever happens to you” – she’s the girl who gets everything she wants. Babini spins this, making the valid point that those who have everything given to them may be left on an emotional island.

Is it his place to opine on her life choices or her psyche? Maybe; maybe not. But if this is what it takes for him to get over her, let the man have his moment. He fell in love with the wrong woman, and for that folly he is paying a hefty price.

But you’re faithful and honest, alright
If nobody’s counting last night
And like many before that you held in your captivity
I’m just a prisoner of lust, and you know I will never be free

At the end of the day, nothing fixes misplaced affection better than time apart. Hopefully the narrator can get a good dose of that, because he surely isn’t over Joanna, and she is certainly well over him: The tongue-in-cheek wordplay with faithfulness and honesty – if nobody’s counting last night – is a jocular jab at Joanna’s sleeping habits. She gets around – but more to the point, she doesn’t get around with the narrator, because if she did, then he wouldn’t attack her with such underlying malice. His pain at being ignored is vivid; he wants her, she doesn’t want him. Can I make it any more obvious?

Dammit Joanna, it’s really all my fault, now I know
Some things come easy, but then they’re so hard to let go
And I told my mama all that you done to me
She said, “Son, sometimes pretty girls get away with the ugliest things”

Alexis Babini © Shervin Lainez
Alexis Babini © Shervin Lainez

Babini’s final verse is perhaps his most derisive. Backhandedly admitting, “It’s really all my fault,” Babini goes on to very subtly shame Joanna: “Some things come easy, but then they’re so hard to let go.” Some things come easy. Intentionally or not, Babini accuses Joanna of promiscuity, hinting that it’s her fault that he is unhappy – and then trying to play it off because she’s “so hard to let go.” It’s scathing; hopefully the real Joanna doesn’t dig this deep into the lyrics. At the same time, the real Joanna probably doesn’t care.

Some things come easy, but then they’re so hard to let go

Honesty is definitely the best policy for certain, if not most, situations, and Alexis Babini’s cathartic presentation of “Dammit Joanna” is no exception. The man feels wronged and misled, and he needs to release those feelings. Better to have them stew in a song, than boil within. Not wanting to make a scene, he masks his pain with joyous music – the kind which may be heard at a summer street festival, exuding a laid-back and cheerful tone. Ultimately, it seems as though time alone will have to work its magic on the poor narrator’s soul.

Babini accepts this notion – that his love is temporary – and resigns himself to retreat into his own playful soundscape. “Dammit Joanna” may keep things relatively surface-level, but Alexis Babini’s blatant tell-all songwriting is refreshing. So many singer/songwriters do their best to beat around the bush – make things as universally relatable as possible – but in doing so, they run the risk of losing the heart of their story. With “Dammit Joanna,” Alexis Babini doesn’t restrain himself: He puts his vulnerable lovesick heart out there for all the world – and especially Joanna – to see.

If only Joanna could tell her side of the story, too.

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