Analytical Arrangements: January White


Rochita Ghosh

[dropcap style=”flat”]A[/dropcap] new year symbolizes a new beginning, a new chance to take a stab at life and make it what you want it to be. Several songs discuss the spirit of a fresh start, such as Sleeping at Last’s “January White.”

So let’s press undo.
Rearrange the old and call it new –
January white.

Starting off with a bass drum and hand clapping, the song begins in an upbeat, positive tune. The first word of the title obviously refers to the first month of a year, but the second word is more ambiguous. White is often used to as a symbol for purity, and can also represent hope, according to The purpose of the song title is to emphasize the hope that comes with a new year, the chance to do things over again.

Every calendar is playing the same old trick:
A year will disappear, replaced with counterfeit
But we’ll never really mind.

’cause if nothing else, we’re given a little time
To change the game, a chance to redefine
Everything we are,
In our January white.

[vc_raw_html]JTNDaWZyYW1lJTIwc3JjJTNEJTIyaHR0cHMlM0ElMkYlMkZvcGVuLnNwb3RpZnkuY29tJTJGZW1iZWQlMkZ0cmFjayUyRjVDV2hNZVUxdXQzVU4ydlBjSGFnRVclMjIlMjB3aWR0aCUzRCUyMjMwMCUyMiUyMGhlaWdodCUzRCUyMjM4MCUyMiUyMGZyYW1lYm9yZGVyJTNEJTIyMCUyMiUyMGFsbG93dHJhbnNwYXJlbmN5JTNEJTIydHJ1ZSUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRmlmcmFtZSUzRQ==[/vc_raw_html]Listen to the song as you read.Time is a relative thing to everyone, but it is us humans that placed constricts on time and gave meaning to it. Truthfully, Jan. 1 is just another day, another rotation the Earth makes up in space. We choose to give meaning to it, however, to see it as a chance to turn lives around and do things differently.

This year is a sealed envelope,
A culmination of hopes,
The lottery result that we’ve been crossing fingers for.

The song doesn’t have a true chorus, but rather repetitions of phrases that pop up periodically. This is the first instance that Sleeping at Last refers to a new year as a sealed envelope, something mysterious yet exciting to discover what lies inside. It’s an envelope filled with opportunities, chances and wishes, something that Sleeping at Last eludes to with the last verse above. Winning the lottery, something almost all can relate to hoping for, is an example of such possibilities that could await us in the new year.

We could paint our walls a lighter shade of blue,
Or we could pack our bags and change the entire view
To January white.

If nothing else, we’re given a little time
To change the heart in which we change our minds;
Our hourglasses turn.

The meaning behind this verse is a repeat of the previous — it holds more examples of ways that people could want to change things in a new year, whether the way is in themselves — like trying to exercise more or be more positive — or changing their physical surroundings, which Sleeping at Last eludes to in the first verse. The lyric “change the entire view to January white” is a wonderful decision the artist made, the meaning of the metaphor being that people shift their perceptions to being more hopeful and positive.

This year is a sealed envelope;
With apprehensive hope
We brace for anything.
I swear, I understand that nothing changes that,
The past will be the past,
But the future is brighter than any flashback.

The envelope metaphor repeats itself again, but presents it in a different matter. It is the college letter that contains pure joy or rejection, the letter from relatives who don’t write often, the unknown package. The second part of the verse acknowledges the duality of the envelope, but chooses to hope for the best anyway. To disregard the past — but not forget it — and look on toward the future.

Well, we could let our guards down a little easier this time,
We could trust that when there’s joy, there’s nothing dark behind.
In spite of history,
Hope is January white.

Sleeping at Last expands on his prior point here, as he talks about trusting in others’ and the ability to enjoy without overthinking. He again emphasizes choosing to believe that good can happen, regardless of what has happened in the past.

This year, we’re starting over again
Letter openers in hand,
A chance to take a chance.
I swear, I understand that the past will be the past,
And nothing changes that,
But the future is brighter than any flashback.

The final verse calls back to the pseudo-chorus, but changes slightly for the better. The phrase “letter openers in hand” is an obvious reference to the envelope metaphor, but suggests taking action regardless of what may come. The final verse of the song shifts the song meaning slightly; here, Sleeping at Last communicates that in the following year, he’ll make it his. Whatever may happen in the year ahead, he will take what it throws at him — but will never forget that the future is brighter than any flashback.
What do you think of the song? Let us know in the comments below!