A Story of Songwriting
A Theory About Sara Bareilles's masterpiece Uncharted

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This is a story about creativity, about song-writing, and about an intense emotion; an inspiring, kaleidoscopic emotion that feels like falling and burns like fire.

As our story opens, Sara sits at her piano. She has just composed a melody, the melody you're currently listening to.

Normally, she'd then get to work on lyrics. But...

🎶No words🎶

She can't. She can't bring herself to write the lyrics. Why not?

🎶My tears won't make any room for more🎶

She can't find the words because she's overwhelmed. Composing the melody has stirred something inside her; brought her to tears.

🎶And it don't hurt like anything I've ever felt before🎶

And while she's written lots deeply emotional songs before, there's something different about this one.

🎶This is no broken heart, No familiar scars,
This territory goes uncharted...🎶

It's not about the teenage heartbreak of Gravity or the scars of early career struggles like in Love Song. This feeling is something new; an emotional realization she's just come into contact with.
🎶Just me, in a room sunk down in a house in a town,🎶

Now Sara sets the scene.

She is alone. And she emphasizes her isolation by panning out: from self, to room, to house, to town. She shows how far removed she is from other people.

🎶And I Don't breathe, no I never meant to let it get away from me🎶

Sara implies that the emotion affecting her is semi-intentional.

She meant to find a strong emotion to help her songwriting, but she never meant to feel so thoroughly overwhelmed.

🎶Now, I've too much to hold, everybody has to get their hands on gold,
And I want uncharted.🎶

Sara is struggling to contain these emotions. And she knows this isn't the course if she wants to write something popular (the gold that everybody wants)... but it's what she wants.
🎶Stuck under the ceiling I made, I can't help but feeling... I'm going down,🎶

Sara describes these emotions, this overwhelming feeling. It feels like falling, and it comes on unexpectedly as she ponders her isolation.

🎶Follow if you want, I won't just hang around🎶

Now a mystery... who is she talking to? Who is the "you"? Who is Sara inviting to come along on her uncharted journey?

The fandom has a variety of ideas.

🎶Like you'll show me where to go,🎶

In this theory, Sara is talking to herself.
Or more precisely, part of her is talking to another part.
Something like her emotional or creative self is talking to her logical or practical self.

And if Sara is conversing with herself, that would fit well with the cover image of the album.

🎶I'm already out of foolproof ideas, so don't ask me how to get started, it's all uncharted...🎶

Sara's creative side is explaining that she doesn't have a plan, she's just following the path of these overwhelming emotions, seeing where they'll take her.

The 2nd verse begins

🎶Each day, I'm countin' up the minutes, til I get alone, 'cause I can't stay🎶

Sara explains an element of songwriting that's a struggle for many writers. You often need solitude to properly concentrate. And you may need hours to get anywhere.

So in social situations, Sara often finds herself estimating how much time she can spend later writing.

"Let's see, if I hang out for another 15 minutes and no more... that leaves me with a solid block of 2 hours to try to write a song before bedtime."

🎶In the middle of it all, it's nobody's fault, 🎶

And this leads to problems because she gets distracted in social situation. Sometimes her friends realize she's distracted and it's awkward.

🎶But I'm so low, never knew how much I didn't know,
Oh, everything is uncharted.🎶

And this awkwardness makes her feel bad.

Even though she's had success in her career, there's still so much she doesn't understand how to handle, socially and creatively.

🎶I know I'm getting nowhere, when I only sit and stare like I'm going down🎶

Another scourge of writers of all. When you've blocked off some time to write, sit down with your tools... and you just sit there staring at the screen/paper.

And the fear of writer's block is even worse when you've sacrificed social time for it. 'I left my friends early just to write and now I can't write!'

🎶Follow if you want I won't just hang around🎶

Sara falls again. She tumbles into the overwhelming emotion that feels like falling and burns like fire. The refrain plays through for the second time.

The first time Sara fell, it was as she pondered her isolation.

The second time, it was as she considered social responsibility and writer's block.

Now on to the bridge

🎶Jump start my kaleidoscope heart,
Love to watch the colors fade,🎶

Sara describes the positive side of being overwhelmed by emotion. It may feel like 'going down,' like being out of control.

But it's also amazing, like a beautiful kaleidoscopic image.

🎶They may not make sense,
But they sure as hell made me.🎶

Sara emphasizes her idiosyncratic process. Uncharted is one of Sara's more mysterious songs; a bop about overwhelming sadness, rapid-fire lyrics that start with 'no words.' Uncharted doesn't make sense...

But also makes perfect sense in all its emotionally complex glory.

And the song helped 'make' Sara. She's called Uncharted the 'centerpiece' of the album and it's one of her most popular songs that she's playing in concerts ever since with endless variations.

🎶I won't go as a passenger, no
Waiting for the road to be laid🎶

Sara is committed to writing music her way. How committed? She'd written/composed almost every single song on her many albums, most of which she's solo-written/composed.

🎶Though I may be going down, I'm taking flame over burning out🎶

🎶Feel the fire burnin' up, inspire me with blood of blue and green🎶

The feeling might scald sometimes, but she prefers that to the 'burning out' of churning out songs designed for popularity.

🎶Compare where you are to where you want to be, and you'll get nowhere🎶

This final unique lyric feels like a motto; a poetic declaration about how Sara lives her life. It's about the importance of the journey over the destination.

Then she slides into the refrain one last time. The transition is important.

Here's how the refrain began previously:

🎶Stuck under this ceiling I made I can't help the feeling I'm going down🎶
🎶I know I'm getting nowhere when I only sit and stare like I'm going down🎶
Those previous transitions feel like Sara is stumbling, tumbling, falling into a pit she didn't see coming.

But the third time is different. Note the distinct pause.

She is no longer stumbling into the emotion unexpectedly. It's like she's pausing at the edge of a precipice, taking a deep breath...

And then...


The final refrain remains the same. The emotion still overwhelms. Sara still hasn't found any foolproof songwriting ideas.

What's changed is her attitude. Sara accepts the fire. She learns to love the falling. She confidently strides down the uncharted path.

It may be scary. She may not know where she'll end up. But the lesson in Uncharted is about embracing the creative path.

Sara learns that to deal with the powerful emotions, she must accept them, embrace them. Even if those emotions feel like falling and burn like fire.


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