Today’s Song: James Blake Explores a Different Kind of Loss with “Life Is Not the Same”

James Blake © Miles Johnston
James Blake © Miles Johnston
Revel in James Blake’s latest single “Life Is Not the Same,” complete with beautiful vocals, lofty harmonies, and the usual gilded production.
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Stream: “Life Is Not the Same” – James Blake




James Blake is an overachiever. He is an artist that many would pay to have on deck, namely Frank Ocean, Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, and Andre 3000. Blake is a special musician, one that is as valuable a creator as a collaborator.

My favorite thing about Blake’s music is that I can see it. I can see him in the midnight hours at his computer, mixing and mastering till he inevitably drowns in the blue light. It’s clear that his work spends ages in a pressure cooker, he applies power from every which way to yield a symmetrical, balanced, exquisite result. Both from his own reports in his songwriting and this writer’s imagination, I imagine he loves the same way. This brings us to “Life is Not the Same,” his second release off upcoming album Friends that Break Your Heart, out September 10. As the title of the album tells us, the focus is not necessarily a romantic love, a key difference from previous record Assume Form, where he narrated his experience of being in love.

Friends That Break Your Heart - James Blake
Friends That Break Your Heart – James Blake
I played the ones you know
I took you all the way
But that was yesterday
I wore your favorite clothes
I said the things you’d say
But that was yesterday
So if you loved me so much
Why’d you go? (Why’d you go?)
Keep yourself back
Keep on lying, oh
I can only be what I am
Diving, smiling
Life is not the same if we’re miles away
I was your champion, I did everything your way

Maybe the love between friends is not the mainstream choice, but that doesn’t make it any less devastating. Blake falls into the sabertoothed trap the rest of us do, devoting yourself body and soul to someone who doesn’t share the investment. This love boils over adoration, like a young boy putting on his dad’s work boots and stumbling around the house yelling “Look!” It’s the same attention Blake craves, as he sings, “I wore your favorite clothes, I said the things you say.” As always, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But it’s not enough. So Blake asks the only relevant question over a lonely synth, “If you loved me so much, why’d you go?”

James Blake © 2021
James Blake © Miles Johnston



We both swam out to sea
You lost me willingly
But that was yesterday
(That was yesterday)
You knew it would get dark
You made sure I would need you in every way

Blake’s falsetto is dreamlike. A narrow and weary sound, it transports you to his destination every time. The track sounds like it’s minimalistic, with a few dissonant piano chords, the whine of an electric guitar, and carefully placed harmonies. I underestimated the full power of Blake’s touch until I reached the chorus. Layers and layers of his voice create an intricate dissonance. My preferred method of listening so far has been in the dark in my car, with the speakers turned up to full volume. Creepy, I know. But it’s the best way to bathe in the sound that Blake has curated.

So if you loved me so much
Why’d you go? (Why’d you go?)
Keep yourself back
Keep on lying, oh
I can only be what I am
Diving, smiling
Life is not the same if we’re miles away
I was your champion, I did everything your way
James Blake © Miles Johnston
James Blake © Miles Johnston



Blake makes music for when words fail. “Life is Not the Same” opens with hollow whispers and haunted echoes, and ends the same way.

It’s the sound of the deserted heart. If you’ve ever been in love with a friend, it’ll hit home. “Life is Not the Same” is not only a beautiful work of art, but it’s an important thought to level with. It sheds light on a different pain from a different love,  but the same feeling of loss.

Life is not the same If we’re miles away
I was your champion, I did everything to help you stay

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:: stream/purchase “Life Is Not the Same” here ::
Stream: “Life Is Not the Same” – James Blake



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Friends That Break Your Heart - James Blake

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📸 © Miles Johnston


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