Bon Iver: 33 “GOD”

by Stephen

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest. 

Psalms 22: 1-2

33 “GOD” is Bon Iver’s third single off of their upcoming album, 22, A Million. The lyric video, posted below, opens with the underlined selection from the 1st verse in the 22nd chapter of Psalms. “Why are you so far from saving me,” cries David as he wrote this 31 verse song. And here, visions of anguish, despair, inquiry, self-reasoning and hope paint lush shades of David’s emotional and mental state throughout the chapter. He contends with his faith, while first expressing his withheld doubts. This is the vision of an ordinary yet extraordinary man; a king and a leader who openly bears his soul for others to bear witness.

But alas Justin Vernon is no king. He’s no warrior either. And there, the comparisons fail. But he is a musician, who combines his vocals with an uncanny sense of boundary pushing instrumentation. Just as the Greek definition of “Psalms” details, he combined words with music and does so with an insatiable skill. And those same depictions of self-discovery, anger, disappointment and hope in Psalms 22 also reside in 33 “GOD” as well. But here, they are codified through Bon Iver’s taste for vocal distortion, stunted timing  and onomatopoeic sound effects. All scene settings for his upcoming album, 22, a Million. As a result, what we have is a poetic, poignant and yet frustratingly cryptic single on faith, self and existence. 33 “GOD” grabs you tighter and closer with each repeated listen. It demands to be understood when it cannot. And the slightest and subtlest blips suddenly burst to life when the previous listen kept them buried under Justin Vernon’s exquisite falsetto.