Not all pop songs aspire to being classics. Some are just in-the-moment pieces that do their good work in a limited timeframe. Others have staying power. Sonia Stein’s “Letters to You” is an elegant, classic pop song that sails above the crowd and aspires to greatness. This is a song you shouldn’t miss.
Writing lyrics to classic pop songs is hard, because you have to nail the emotion, ground the song in reality, and give the listener space to imagine. Stein starts off with the lines “I used to have a file on my computer / called ‘Letters to you'”, and well, that is a line. The emotions of nostalgia and regret are already present. The song is firmly in our era (the computer) but not so much that the reference is fleeting (didn’t say “iPhone” or worse). And then there’s all the space to imagine: did Stein delete the folder? Did she lose it? Were the letters sent? Were they (more likely) unsent? There’s so much there, and that’s just the first line. There are other lines in there that land, but it’s that first one that really sucks me in.
(For her part, Stein says: “‘Letters to you’ is nostalgia in a song. I wrote this song when Facebook notified me a high school love of mine is about to become a parent and reliving some memories from that time, reflecting on how strange it is that someone I had thought would always be a part of my life was now a stranger on the internet.”)
The composition is a lovely piano-pop tune that splits the difference between the quirky rhythms of Regina Spektor and the solid left hand of Adele songs. Stein’s distinctive vocal delivery tips it over to the Spektor side of the table, with a touch of Amy Winehouse. The video places Stein and a bright yellow grand piano in a park path lined with hedges and trees; it’s a gorgeous setting for a great, classic song.
Stein has been releasing a string of singles over the past few years, and you can catch up with them all on Spotify.