Music

Janet LaBelle's "I Only See You" Is Spare, Haunting Ballad (premiere)

Jedd Beaudoin
Photo courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media

With the music inspired by Roy Orbison and visuals influenced by French cinema, "I Only See You" spotlights Janet LaBelle's abilities as a powerhouse vocalist.

Janet LaBelle's latest video, "I Only See You" is a supremely understated and deeply emotionally meditation on love lost. Accompanied only by spare ukulele figures, LaBelle delivers a performance that is raw without being overwrought and deeply familiar without being contrived.

"I actually recorded the song about six years ago," LaBelle says. "It was just a bedroom recording that I did right after I wrote it. I thought about re-recording it, but that version had so much I liked. I perform it a lot live. I've been ending my live sets with it lately. Making a video gave it more of a chance to be heard."

What's made a song that she wrote in a flurry of inspiration become one of her most popular compositions? She can't say for sure, though she adds that her personal connection to the tune might have something to do with it. "I love music where I can feel something, and every time I hear the lyrics, it's very emotional for me," she notes.

The video was shot in Brooklyn in winter. "We followed a woman walking around finding these objects. Many of them have her reflection in them. She's thinking about a long-lost love, but with everything she looks at, she only sees herself."

The video borrows from French cinema of the 1960s while the song, LaBelle notes, had a slightly different inspiration. "I was listening to a lot of Roy Orbison at the time," she recalls. "I imagined writing something that he might sing. It just wrote itself. It's also a very sparse song, and I think that fits with the aesthetic of the video."

LaBelle is also working on a new single and will reunite with her former band, Avery, this summer for a handful of shows.

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