It’s time for a joyful, confident song in this Song of the Week series, don’t you think? When “What You Don’t Do” by Lianne La Havas ended the first time I heard it, even though I was sitting at home by myself in my fuzzy socks and yoga pants with no one but the cats to hear me, I laughed aloud and said, “I love it!”
You can hear La Havas’s power coming through your headphones in this one. Her voice gets raw. She believes so much in what she’s singing about, and I believe in it too.
My favorite line happens in the chorus. “It’s what you don’t do. It’s what you don’t say. I know you love me. I don’t need proof.” These four simple sentences convey one of the truest facets of being in a relationship. Yet I feel that it’s one of the toughest things to learn while growing older and figuring out how to make a relationship work.
There’s this scared, vulnerable person inside each of us who needs affection, affirmation, and constant reassurance at all times. This is also the person who wants to grab his hand when another girl is looking, or who wants him to say “I love you” first, or who wants him to proclaim how much he adores my face all over the Internet. Some of us are better than others at keeping this girl in check, but then again, being in a relationship uproots all sorts of insecurities that we never knew we had, and this insecure child can rear her head at any moment.
I love that in this song, La Havas affirms the notion that when the love is true, she doesn’t need any sort of grand gesture or overused words to convince her. The proof comes from his actions, from the types of things he doesn’t say and the lack of manipulative games. When we’re part of this kind of healthy relationship, everything we had wrong before becomes clear, and we are able to appreciate the truly important things, the small, everyday sacrifices that prove over and over again that this is real love.
When you get that kind of love, you don’t want to sing it from the rooftops. You don’t want to shove it into everyone’s face. You want to hold on tight, keep it close to your chest, and cherish it with every ounce of energy you possess.
What’s so great about “What You Don’t Do” is that I can still hear the playful instrumentation that made La Havas’s debut album incredible, but it’s quirkier and more processed this time around. We don’t have those clean, precise guitar tones. Instead everything besides La Havas’s vocals is wrapped in a thick, hazy effect. Even the snare pops are muffled until the vocals open up and La Havas shows us she has some major belting chops.
In the chorus, a female choir echoes a few of her lines, which gives it an almost gospel vibe. Of course, this just amplifies that joyful, confident feeling I mentioned earlier. The choir, La Havas’s belting vocals, and a trumpet line brings us to her final statement. “The closer we get, oh, the less we need to show.”
Her sophomore album, “Blood,” came out at the end of last month. I recommend picking up a copy ASAP. And if you want to hear some other great tracks by Lianne La Havas in the meantime, may I suggest “Unstoppable” and “Everything Everything”?