Single Review #9: How Could I Not? – Tom Rosenthal
Tom Rosenthal is one of those songwriters that completely changed the way I approached writing music. I discovered him in 2017 before he completely exploded on TikTok with his cover of Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. He taught me that a song shouldn’t be long for the sake of being long. For a while, I was in the habit of writing songs that were at least three and a half minutes; the standard pop song length. I love Tom’s music because he says what he needs to say, then gets out of there. How Could I Not? is a perfect example.
How Could I Not? is only 1 minute and 53 seconds long, but it doesn’t feel too short. This concept completely shifted my writing. A song doesn’t always need two verses, two pre-chorses, three choruses, and a bridge. Sometimes, like Tom’s touching piano ballad, just a single verse, refrain, half of a second verse, and a refrain is enough. To be fair, some songs deserve to be as long as they are: Bohemian Rhapsody, I Want You (She’s So Heavy), or Scenes From An Italian Restaurant. For Billy Joel, that was after seven minutes. For Tom, it was under two.
This entire song is acoustic piano and one vocal line–minimalism at its finest. Tom has a fantastic, comforting voice. Though he often releases music with wonderfully layered vocals, this single melody line in his lower register feels like a warm blanket, which is perfect for a song like about his children. I am in love with the muted tone of the acoustic piano. It gives the tune a tender feeling.
I don’t know how your brain works so well/And if I did, I might explode. His lyrics are not terribly complex, which is one of my draws to him. He writes how he speaks. From songwriter to songwriter, it sounds like Tom was writing with little to no revisions; it’s a natural way of writing which I admire. There are only four unique lines in this tune. Four! But the song feels complete at the end. It doesn’t feel like it’s missing anything. A lifetime of troubles/But how could I not love you? What a stunning sentiment. No matter what is happening, whatever struggles Tom faces, he will always love his children. The song can be interpreted to represent romantic love, but the music video features his two daughters, so it’s safe to assume he wrote How Could I Not? for them. Tom is a brilliant songwriter that never fails to amaze me.
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