This week, I stumbled across the latest release from Jacob Collier featuring Brandi Carlile, “Little Blue”. Jacob is always impressive musically, but I was mostly struck by the lyrics in this song. Although it’s likely accidental, I was amazed to hear a beautiful tribute to Mary.
Jacob Collier’s Music
If you are not familiar with Jacob Collier, you should look up his many YouTube videos. He is a young grammy winning multi instrumentalist known for wild reharmonization of classic songs.
From Jacob, you can always expect something crazy, beautiful, or both.
As far as genre, Jacob Collier is all over the map: from jazz to indie, or hip hop to rock.
Of all of his music, Little Blue stands out. It is moving.
Though Collier hasn’t shown explicit Christianity in his art before, to me, it sounds like a love song to Mary.
Little Blue Live in Church
Before hearing the studio version of the song, I actually watched the live performance video first.
Released by Mahogony Sessions, this video is set in a church in London with Jacob and a choir filled by his fans.
The setting of the church first queued to me that this song might be special. Though not always, I feel that most people still fell some reverence in a church – even if that church has been converted into a community space like the Heritage & Cultural Arts Center has.
Starting with Jacob playing solo on a 5-string guitar, surrounded by a choir. He opens the song with a very soft and low verse like a gentle ballad.
The pre-chorus grows with higher melody which sounds like it will grow until, where the chorus would normally be the peak. Then Jacob turns to his choir and leads them in an even softer and lower chorus that I’d describe as a humble and comforting response to the verses.
In a radio interview about the song, Jacob describes looking for this chorus for a long time until walking home in the sunshine and realizing that you can achive a greater increase by doing less. It almost seems like “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
To finish the song, in a way that is signature Jacob Collier, he directs the choir as a live instrument of their own. He sets their pitches in three groups and moves them to form the chords.
Then the choir sings higher and higher, giving the effect that they are being elevated to the heights of the church they stand in.
Lyrics of Little Blue
Opening Lines, Addressing Mary
Little blue, be my shelter
Be my cradle, be my womb
Be my boat, be my river
Be the stillness of the moon
The opening line of the song immediately makes the listener question who Little Blue is. The word little might mean someone small, but the word shelter implies that they can hold you. Therefore, “Little” is moreso implying endearment or humility.
The name “Blue” doesn’t automatically remind me of Mary, but Blue makes sense as you begin to hear other traits such as cradle and womb where we can meditate that Christ would have been held by Mary. For us to be like Christ, we can imagine that she would hold us too.
The boat and river lead to the sea, which has long been seen as a feminine archetype. We see this in language – la mer (the sea), la mere (mother), Maria.
In an earlier post I have covered that not only is blue is a significant Marian color, but also the moon is an image of Mary as well.
Words of Motherly Comfort
The next section continues to express a child-like trust and a desire to be close to Little Blue.
If I could, I’d go with you[Pre-Chorus: Jacob Collier]‘Cause you’re not so far away
To a place I never knew
In your eyes, so dark and open
There’s a light that leads me back to you
I hear you say
“You’ll never walk alone”
And then we get the motherly response in the chorus:
Don’t be afraid of the dark
In your heart
You’re gonna find a way
To carry the weight of the world
On your shoulders
You’re gonna find a way home
Idea of Home in Finding Mary
Verse 2 returns to express trust in someone who can be followed as an example. More than trust, this verse also expresses a love, strong and true.
[Verse 2: Brandi Carlile, Jacob Collier]Little blue, be my anchor
Be my light, my compass star
Be my darkness, be my danger
Be the strings of my guitar
Little blue (Little blue), how I love you (How I love you)
Somethin’ strong and somethin’ true
In your arms (In your arms), so dear and gentle
There’s a home that leads me back to you
The chorus repeats and ends with the line, “You’re gonna find your way home”. Then the outro repeats that line.
Outro: Jacob Collier, Brandi Carlile](Find a way home)
(You’re gonna find your way home)
(In your heart)
(Find a way home)
(In your heart)
(On your shoulders)
I have also written recently about John 19:27 where Jesus tells the disciple “behold, your mother.” and he takes Mary into his home.
The outro calls this to mind again because Little Blue doesn’t just encourage the singer to find any home, but that he will find a way home “in your heart” as the greek “idia” in John’s gospel could imply.
Marian Themes – an Ode and Song of Comfort
Overall, whether accidental or not, Little Blue is a Marian song of comfort.
There is beauty in the music, the lyrics, and even the live performance that point to Mary and through her, to a greater appreciation for God.
Truth, Joy, and Incarnation
Also in the interview that I listened to with Jacob, I appreciated some of his thoughts on truth and joy.
“You can’t plan what’s true. You have to just open your eyes and look.”
– Jacob Collier on Zach Sang Show
This idea of truth that is something greater that we cannot make up or plan is a concept that can be lost at times. However, like beauty and goodness, truth is an attribute of God that cannot be made up. It is why we are moved by something, like this song, that is beautiful whether we know why or not.
When asked what he is looking for in a song Jacob interestingly replied:
“Fundamentally, I think I’m just looking for a version… an incarnation of my own humanity that I can connect with.”
At another point:
“People aren’t moved by things that are perfect. People are moved by things that are human.”
This statement I find very profound and true, except that he is missing the fact that with Jesus you can have both of those things, human and perfect. In fact, I think what Jacob is looking for is exactly that, the perfectly human and divine, the both/and, who is Jesus. Jesus is the incarnation of our own humanity that we can connect with!
Mary, being the mother of Jesus, is also an example of perfection in her purity and being without sin.
I pray that Mary, Little Blue, can lead us all to what I think Jacob and all of us are looking for, Jesus.