Hanita Bhambri’s newest single, I Tried echoes powerfully, of resolution and resignation. What appears to be, at first hearing, a song very much like the repetitive, solipsistic somnolence of a Priscilla Ahn transitions powerfully into something closer to Alanis Morissette, a more complex and unsettled meditation on human emotion.
Bhambri, whose previous single Let Me Go was released in August of this year to considerable applause forms an interesting trajectory with I Tried. Musically, both singles feature her powerful voice righteously exercising itself over a strong foundation of minor chords on the piano, as well as the minimalist impressiveness of synth beats . I Tried is a strong melange of a variety of sub-trends and not strictly classifiable within a genre, and pop is perhaps too generic a term for the variety of musical influences it contains: the likes of which echo Damien Rice meeting Chrtistina Perri, as Alanis Morissette sips her drink. That being said, it will not blow you over with pretensions of incredible musical innovation. Even as it betrays a variety of influences, it is probably more comforting than experimental.
Although the song lacks the dynamic and expansive chord work of the previous single, Let Me Go, it strongly holds its own by establishing a foundation of powerful songs about a singer meditating on the growing perils of love, loss, and the expenses of chasing a dream. Bhambri, in this sense, becomes perhaps a close-to-ideal emblem of a younger, millennial, metro-influenced, urbane Indian who begins to slowly move away from the cotton candy version of a world sold to us to the realization of the illusion slowly unravelling. Let Me Go is notably influenced by her time interning for Vodafone, while what she really wanted to do was music, and I Tried speaks of clutching on to failed relationships, and internalizing the need to let go, and accepting acceptance.
Her music and its videos, too, are closer to a more global aesthetic of the internal subjectivity of loss than an ‘Indian-ness’ per se, as we see in Divine the rapper, perhaps. This is shown to us sometimes through the echoes of a dream deferred, other times through the loud empty space and silence of a lover’s departure. It appeals more to the ‘human-ness’ of the listener, and contains a grave acknowledgement of their experiences, rather than cultural particularity.
One could say, with some confidence, that we catch Bhambri in I Tried at the beginning of her song writing capabilities, because above all else the song is musically brimming with the potential of her talent, which in some years, could well flower into international territory.
The video, conceptualized by Bhambri herself as well as Ishani Das, is far more powerful than the singer’s work in Let Me Go, whose aesthetic blurs lines with that of a mid-level college street drama troupe. Playing with the synesthetic spill-over of colours and emotions, an aspect present in most of musical history, but recently attributed to Lorde for her latest album, the video tussles with the idea of presences and absences.The significant presence of the colour blue in the video points to this.
When the video features shots of the singer internally pondering over the tetrus of her failed relationship, such as during the chorus and the bridge, we see the warm alienation of blue sweeping over the screen. The symbolic presence of the colour is then made into a metaphor of transition, and the process of letting go, when we see it featured again, in white and blue cushions, as the singer realizes the emptiness of her bed. The different phases of the relationship are shown to us through the different times of the day it is shot in.
That’s not all. I Tried has been produced by Miti Adhikari (the closest we’re getting to a South Asian KT Tunstall) at his Kolkata home and mastered at the famous Abbey Road Studios, and this is apparent in its crisp tonal overtures. The song is nothing if not technically perfect; betraying a producer confident and comfortable in her craft. Adhikari has also worked previously with Bhambri in Let Me Go, and in the production value of that song too becomes a powerful reason to re-listen for many subsequent discussions.
All in all, while the single does not entirely eclipse the musical moon with regard to innovation, it does contain within itself a strong base that makes it worth listening to many times. I Tried is a mood, a transition of feelings spilling into space. Isolation and deliberation and their aesthetic display are its strong suits, and Bhambri’s powerful vocal range, Adhikari’s production skills, and the video’s synesthetic conversation with the music make up some of the charm of its singer’s present repertoire.
All text by Anandita Thakur.