What a time it is to be an artist!
I think it’s fair to say that nothing like this – you know, this – has happened, on this scale, in recent history. We’re all inside, paranoid, afraid to look at the news, unable to go about our lives and jobs as usual. Frankly, everything is terrifying. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. Nobody knows what to do. Nobody knows when this will be over, or if we will be the same afterwards.
For artists, this is as dire as it gets. We’re compelled to create, to perform, to go live, to carry on as though everything is normal. More than likely we’re out of work – most of our day jobs have shut down, too. Some of us don’t even have insurance. We truly cannot afford to get sick. But we have to do something. Otherwise, what can we do?
With his newest single/blast of energy Blind Sight, Davis Evanoff has done something – something I thought impossible in times like these. In a world where it seems almost irresponsible to be happy and hopeful, he has reminded me that it is necessary.
Listening to this song removed from its current (global) context, you would never know anything was wrong. That is absolutely… most absolutely a compliment. Normally, production and atmosphere of this nature would be exciting, thumping and alive – and it is! But the reality of our current global situation elevates this song considerably. Evanoff sounds not merely excited, but defiant; you can hear it in the polyrhythmic, electric groove of the chopped-up flute and vocal sounds, and in his tightly-controlled, unblinking vocal delivery.
This is more than mere positivity; it is open-hearted joy in the midst of uncertainty. It is a refusal to give in.
Evanoff, a Worthington native, first wrote Blind Sight at the age of 19. He was a much younger musician then – as he said in an Instagram post announcing the single’s release. “I wrote this song when I didn’t know what the future was going to look like.”
I know the feeling. You can hear his youth in the song’s spirit, in the optimistic lilt of the melody and the cathartic rush of the song’s instrumental hook. But, at the same time, this is also the work of an older, more seasoned Evanoff. His steady hand in the production and vocal work, and his knowing ear for when to sing and when to let the music breathe, show his experience. Every element in this song is deployed with the precision and craftsmanship of someone who’s been doing this for a long time.
Sonically, this is also a bit of a leap from his previous (also quite good) single, Cranberries. That song, much like this one, echoes certain touchstones of ‘80s-style pop production: world music-minded rhythm & instrumentation, a big open-hearted hook, a mix of tight percussive/melodic elements and swaths of reverb.
But Blind Sight takes this idea a step forward and at least two to the left. This is a full-on, hands-in-the-air dance track. It’s not only more electronic, but also more wily and unpredictable. You can hear the sparks flying off Evanoff’s processed vocals. The doubled octaves add intensity and edge to his vocal delivery, and the vocoder-esque break at the end is another unexpected but highly welcome choice.
In short, Blind Sight isn’t as easily pinned down. It sounds like the old and the new because it’s both: a reflection of a young Evanoff’s desire to make sense of a changing, uncertain world, and his older self hoping to instill that same spirit within others.
Much pop music of this nature can backslide into mawkishness or self-indulgence, but Evanoff is a real pro. This is not a bunch of out-of-touch celebrities singing “Imagine” to the little people – this is a fellow just like us, another musician doing his best to make us happy in a frightening time. When he sings “Swim with no sight, terrified / Of the things that’ve been lost in the night,” I relate to that more than he knows.
For who among us is not terrified, or fearful of what we may lose in this great uncertainty?
What’s more, Evanoff has reminded me that the role of an artist is to create in response to the world and the unknown. During our brief email correspondence, he said something that struck me: “[…] in my mind, art is the most human-like of reactions to the world around us[…] I’m simply a young man that’s trying to understand the world better.”
Much like Evanoff himself, I was also a musician at 19, and found artistic expression to be a powerful means of understanding myself and my world. I still do. In our newfound world of canceled live events and mostly homebound livestreams, we need art in which we can regain our lost senses of comfort and stability – and many of the artists I’ve seen in this time, myself included, have clearly been struggling with this themselves. Our work, during and after this difficult time, will doubtless be colored with the restlessness and confusion we feel.
But Blind Sight is direct, engaging and empowering at a time we need it most. It’s a song to dance to – if not with our friends, then in our homes, headphones cranked – and not feel so alone. It embraces the uncertainty that comes with fear of the future, accepting it for what it is. And it doesn’t shun or dismiss hope, nor does it afford cynicism or self-effacement. At a time when human contact is extremely limited, it reaches out and grabs me by the collar, looking me squarely in the face. It’s a bolt of lightning.
At a time where the meaning of being an artist has changed more than ever, Davis Evanoff reminds us that “all that is good is right.”
Thank you, Davis. I needed to hear that. We needed to hear that.
Davis Evanoff – Blind Sight