Ruthie Craft’s “Heartbeat” bleeds soul back into pop
Ruthie Craft’s “Heartbeat” engulfs you with its groove from the first second you hit play. A touch of the snare drum and a funky guitar line converge as an eerie synth breaks through the background. Just like that, you’re hooked, possessed by the beat.
Craft comes in after a five-second intro in an earthy register that stands on its own, only backed by a simple kick drum. As she mutters, “down a little bit lower,” a throbbing bass meets her vocals and holds her hand as they rhythmically and scenically make their way to the pre-chorus, where we pick up a little pace.
As we inch closer to the chorus, echoes of the last line seem to be our only companion, leading us to a moment of tension that rises into a hyper-energetic rhythm. Craft reiterates the shift verbally though her opening lyrics: “like a heartbeat / I’m alive.” At this moment, a lightning bolt of energy surges through you; you’ve never felt more alive.
By setting the expectations early on through her lower register and the rumble of the bass — and through the repetitive use of the word “down” — we are lulled into a hypnotic state until the chorus brings a world of highs we have yet to experience.
The following verse brings us back down, but with a remembrance of the energetic vibe and a refusal to feel buried again. “Waking up alone just to feel my lungs release / just a little bit easier than breathing used to be” encapsulates this new emotion, capturing the release of a built-up sense of oppression and an acknowledgment of a new way to be. Unlike the first verse, where Craft keeps her vocal line pretty uniform, here, she lets it spike like the EKG of an actual heartbeat.
At the bridge, Craft gets a chance to deliver a solid message through numerous repetitions of her lyrics: “in the middle of the struggle, lord, let me see / who I am, what I need, who I’ve got to be.” This really pulls everything together, lyrically and melodically. In this section, there’s a slight buildup of emotion with each repetition, as if starting to understand our own cycle of behavior that led us to each struggle. Finally reaching a point of revelation by the last repetition, we land on a stripped down chorus that feels like floating in mid-air, basking in pure sunlight.
Craft finishes off the song with a final run of the chorus and a quick outro to put a shiny red bow on this fine piece of craftsmanship.
The audio engineering on this track also stands out. Especially when listening on headphones, the distribution of sounds between both ears has a visceral effect. Any monotony that could have existed in the song is kept at bay by the panning, giving birth to spontaneous percussive instruments that defy expectations. Everything has its own place, yet blends together.
Originally written for Dan's Tunes Seattle