"If I Was Ready" - Halley Neal
Updated: Aug 1, 2020
Halley Neal's newest single "If I Was Ready" might come as a surprise to some coming off the heels of her last two releases "So Damn Perfect" and "Isn't That What A Friend's For?". Both beautiful folk songs that explore intimate spaces and illustrious acoustic soundscapes. Its concision turns the page on these slow burners, so assured in its pace its nearly ironic that the song contemplates readiness. With its summery drums-in-the-front-seat groove, the ebbing and flowing electric keyboard and guitar, and double-tracked vocals, Neal showcases a diversity that includes pop writing. Of course, a quick recollection of her previous work with former band Rose & Kennedy reveals that this is trodden territory for her. The viral "Lover" shows that "If I Was Ready", if anything, is a converging of a wide variety of stylistic endeavors, a middle ground of sorts.
More surprising is how little "If I Was Ready" leans back on electronic sounds to produce such a warm atmosphere. With such a forward and simplistic rhythm, harkening to the 70s pop styles of bands like Fleetwood Mac, the song comes to life quickly. It refreshingly hits the mark of a summer pop song without teetering to close to the oftentimes drawl of LA-pop. The songwriting is never overtly cheeky, the ingredients to make a pop song stick out memorably are present here. The song's verse melody is instantly singable but pleasantly subverted by the finger-picking that creates this incredible bubbly motion. The song is dynamically relaxing, and above all Neal's smooth singing voice turns the somewhat perturbed musings of the song into a care-free willingness to take it easy.
The chorus drives the song into dream-pop territory with cloud-like harmonies and the addition of a male vocal. The sonic space of the song expands but only for a moment. One-line choruses are underrated these days, and Neal playfully poses the question "What am I gonna do with you now?". The reverb throw here is a wonderful little bit of production really aiding the prosody of a song, and as the song approaches its bridge an even catchier refrain reveals itself: "Don't wanna wait / Don't wanna wait / 'Til its perfect / I wanna know / I wanna know / What your worst is". I'd linger around what the lyrics are talking about but it's so painfully relatable you've probably already thought of who this song is about for you. I mean I did.
Neal then does, with little apprehension, what so few in pop music are willing to do. She ends the song with an extended instrumental that feels as natural a decision as breathing. Rather than coming back for an extraneous chorus, she let's what's already said sit in the air over a stunning guitar solo. Then the song fades out which is really just *chef's kiss*.