Written By Chloé Sautereau
The world started to spin a little when “The Hardest Part” started playing while I was walking down Spring St. listening to Alexander 23’s new album Aftershock. The beginning motif on keys, panned from left to right in my ears, subconsciously rocking me into a continuum; that feeling of lost balance that comes with something as difficult to understand as losing a loved one too soon.
Written with Amy Allen who’s proven her tact with addressing similar subjects with her beautiful track “Heaven,” and Daniel Nigro, a long-time collaborator who also co-produced the track with Alexander 23 himself, “The Hardest Part” harmoniously combines delicate and raucous for a song that is subtly heart-wrenching.
The familiar melodic rhythm in the opening lines and following verses makes the topic somehow more approachable than it ever seems it could be. Alexander 23, aka Alexander Glantz, showcases the power of music in that regard.
Without ever speaking the words, the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter-producer taps into the emotion immediately, setting the scene without saying too much or too little. His recurring allusions to time passing paint a powerful picture with his use of sensory details.
“And the year is gonna get a lot colder / But you’ll always be stuck in June,” suggesting that push and pull of an irreversible moment in time, yet having to move forward, followed by the incapacity to accept it.
“When the trees turn red, will it hit me then /
That I’m not gonna see you soon?”
Highlighting this relationship with time itself, Alexander 23 addresses the fight between feeling too much or too little or like it’ll never be “sinking in…”
He expresses fatality in a way that surprised me because of how specific – but shook me because of how instantly relatable – and ultimately brought a tear to my eye because of how meaningful he made something that is usually superficial. He read his friend’s “last text,” only to realize he’d “never see those three dots there again.”
The kick drum makes it into that second verse, traditionally proposing the track forward before the second chorus comes around twice as fast emphasizing a sense of urgency. A restlessness that is later reinforced in the bridge, through its melodic repetitiveness; a sensation that is so defining in what Alexander 23 is singing about. It’s a feeling that overpowers anything. Something that takes over, bleeds onto the rest of the world, makes it blurry – indescribable and yet Glantz does it so finely, maintaining his affinity to imagery:
“Took a drive last night, tried to clear my mind /
But I turned the whole highway blue”
There’s a nonchalance in his delivery. An effortlessness in his tone that serves as a source of endearment. His voice, vulnerable throughout, carries the words seamlessly, but with a deeply encapsulated hurt.
A different guitar picking, graver and low, emerges in the breakdown before the last chorus. Slightly fighting with time, it comes as an afterthought, almost like a repeated heartbeat accompanying each phrase. And then, I’m plunged back into a chorus that is innocent more than it is macabre, and thus instills in me a necessary sense of hope.
In the last lines, Alexander 23’s voice becomes submerged, as if underwater and drowned out; an illustration of the overwhelmingness and personification of those voices in our heads. Speaking the things we’re usually too scared to say, for fear of making them real. He addresses them here – handled with so much care and with an understanding of pain, and the incomprehension that comes with it. I got chills when I heard the hook because I hadn’t heard it put that way before. It’s that, “the hardest part of getting old / Is that some people that you love don’t.”