I thought the album this song comes from would be a bigger deal: paraphrasing the liner notes, a new artist, still in her twenties, reaches out to a wish list of Hall of Fame songwriters to create a compact musical history, including the girl group sound, Motown, classic pop, and Philly soul, all with with a hiphop sheen. Maybe the sheen was a little too shiny; some of the tracks do feel overproduced. And maybe the songs, even with names like Thom Bell, Lamont Dozier, and Burt Bacharach contributing, aren’t as much enjoyable on their own as enjoyable in the way they remind you of older, better songs.
But I liked it, and especially this song, a gospel-based pep talk in the vein of “You’ve Got a Friend” or “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” The new thing this one brings to the table is the simple but important realization that you for all your declarations of support and fidelity, you can’t really help someone who doesn’t want your help: “Don’t ever take yourself away/Don’t ever take yourself to a place where I can’t find you.” In other words, the person you’re walking behind has to be open to having someone back there, they have to grab back on your helping hand. Plus, even helping hands can be slippery: “I’ve been told/My hand is a hard one to hold.” No one is totally selfless. Which doesn’t mean you don’t want to help.
The other cool thing about this song is that the co-writer is Bob Dylan. Now, I understand “co-writing” in this case was probably a mediated affair mostly involving managers, A+R guys, and exchanges of digital files. Which is too bad, because the image of Bob and this young black woman sitting in a room with a piano exchanging riffs and lyrics is enormously appealing. Still, even if he didn’t write it, and even if he didn’t have final say on including it, any song with Bob Dylan’s name that includes the lyric, “Rob me blind/I’d still see the best in humankind,” that’s gotta be a keeper.