b/w “ALL WE WANT”/”MELLOW JAM”/FRENCH SONG”
The first single from their 1999 album 13, “Tender” found Blur exploring a music direction more in keeping with the song’s eponymous emotion than much of their previous work. The band’s prior album, 1997’s Blur, saw the band move away from their signature “britpop” sound in favor of a looser, messier approach (this is the album “Song 2” was on). 13 saw them go even farther into weird prog-art-rock territory, with the help of producer William Orbit (who worked on Madonna’s Ray Of Light album, among others). “Tender” gives little indication for what its parent album sounds like, however, as it is a gospel song that leisurely unfolds over the course of seven-and-a-half serene minutes.
Inspired, as much of the 13 album was, by the dissolution of main songwriter Damon Albarn‘s almost decade-long relationship with Elastica’s Justine Frischmann, “Tender” is a hymn of redemption and endurance. This theme is brought to bear simply but effectively by the chorus’s plea t0 “get through it”, a sentiment made stronger by the gospel choir that accompanies Damon on this little piece of self-advice. Another love touch is the post-chorus contribution by guitarist Graham Coxon. who plantitively sings “Oh my baby/oh my baby/Oh why?/Oh my”. It might not look like much on paper (sic), but it’s very moving in song. Their are no great shifts in the arrangement of “Tender”, just the steady “Give Peace A Chance” percussion and Coxon’s unusually bluesy (for him) guitar figures, but its simplicity, in both musical and lyrical content, is what makes the song so direct, and so great.
It was kept off the top of the UK chart by “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears.
I remember very vividly getting these singles imported when they came out, through sirendisc.com. I was working at the Fleur 4 theatres the day I got them (with my friend Ryan Ingram?), and I couldn’t wait to go home and listen to the b-sides. That was TEN YEARS AGO. Jesus, I feel old. Anyway, it’s a great song, enjoy.
The video, featuring a live performance of the song instead of more typical lipsynched rendition:
Live on Letterman, circa ’99:
And audio of the “Tender” single’s best b-side, “All We Want”: