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Track Review

"Don't it always seem to go/That you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?"

Joni Mitchell asked that question in her 1970 hit "Big Yellow Taxi," and musicians of all kinds have been playing with the sentiment ever since, from Cinderella to Kelly Rowland to the Jonas Brothers. Now British folk singer Michael Rosenberg—who goes by the pseudonym Passenger—also revisits that vexing paradox in his first big hit, "Let Her Go." This acoustic ballad has already cracked the Top 10 in the U.S. and topped the charts in 18 other countries, which would seem to indicate that the global music scene's resurgent love affair with pop music has yet to run its course … even if the broken relationship in Passenger's achingly spare tune has.

"Well, you only miss the light when it's burning low," he begins, "Only miss the sun when it starts to snow." And then the emotional kicker: "Only know you love her when you let her go." Another round of perspective-altering moments comes in the second verse before ending up in the same place once again: "Only know you've been high when you're feeling low/Only hate the road when you're missin' home/Only know you love her when you let her go/And you let her go."

It's a devastating realization, and Passenger continues to plumb it with more melancholy: "You see her when you close your eyes/Maybe one day you'll understand why/Everything you touch surely dies."

Ouch.

Time to self-medicate, Passenger intones, "Staring at the bottom of your glass/Hoping one day you'll make a dream last/But dreams come slow, and they go so fast."

There's more, but there's no need to keep reciting to feel how palpable the regret Passenger unpacks is. And, it would seem, nearly without hope or redemption … but for one stray line: After twice repeating "And you let her go," the lament is inverted into a question.

"Will you let her go?"

It's a good question, especially since it's asked hopefully. Because if this man doesn't say no, the sorrow and regret he's trapped in seem likely to suffocate his soul.

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