“Let Her Go”

by Jasmine Wood

Released by English singer-songwriter Passenger (Mike Rossenberg) in July 2012 as part of his album All the Little Things, “Let Her Go” tells the melancholy story of a brokenhearted man who is struggling to come to terms with the end of his relationship. As a folk rock hit single, “Let Her Go” exemplifies Passenger’s simple yet effective language and emotive storytelling technique.

The song itself utilizes oppositional irony and specific scenes to spread the message that it is important to appreciate relationships and people before they are gone and it is too late. Through the speaker’s obvious pain, the audience is able to emotionally connect to his struggle.

Throughout the entire song, the speaker references general experiences that everyone listening knows. For example, the song opens with the lines, “Well you only need the light when it’s burning low/ Only miss the sun when it starts to snow.” Stating examples that are impossible to not know, Passenger creates a situation to which everyone can relate, and sets up his message in a way that is easily receivable. Furthermore, by using the word “you” repetitively in his lines, the speaker builds a connection with his listeners by speaking directly to them, even though he is really referring to his own experience.

Next, the speaker shares his specific experiences in dealing with the aftermath of the breakup. One verse states,

Staring at the ceiling in the dark 
Same old empty feeling in your heart
'Cause love comes slow and it goes so fast
Well you see her when you fall asleep
Never to touch and never to keep
'Cause you loved her too much and dive too deep

While not everyone might have lain awake at night depressed after a break up, the specificity of this instance allows the audience to picture the speaker doing so, and in turn feel empathy for him. As a result, the speaker is further characterized as a miserable person who is suffering because of his actions (or lack thereof). Thus, the audience gets a glimpse of what their future will be like if they do not take heed to his message.

Another tool Passenger utilizes is repetition. In fact, the majority of the song’s lyrics is actually just the chorus that is repeated five times. While not the most important literary technique, this repetition does serve to emphasize the message for the audience:

Well you only need the light when it's burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go
Only know you've been high when you're feeling low
Only hate the road when you're missing home
Only know you love her when you let her go
And you let her go

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, Passenger’s use of oppositional irony is what makes this song so compelling. By providing specific examples of the irony of not realizing something’s importance until it is gone, he further emphasizes the importance of valuing what one has. For example, he says, “Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low/ Only hate the road when you’re missing home.” Not only does this add unique wit to the song, but it also strengthens the overall message as it builds up to the final example, “Only know you love her when you let her go,” which is what he is really trying to say.

Overall, Passenger masterfully weaves together relatable anecdotes and emotive language to ensure that his audience receives his message to keep loved ones close. It is in this way the “Let Her Go” is both a poem and a song.

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