Jordan Singh stuns on his evolving debut “Like a Knife”
Jordan Singh’s debut single, “Like a Knife,” has lived many lives.
A cursory search on YouTube will reveal the multitude of forms that the song has taken, the first of which dating all the way back to 2013. That’s the one where Singh is singing the song behind a building, complete with a nervous tempo change and an abrupt ending. There’s another where he’s indoors and more relaxed, superimposing cheesy iMovie transitions of his lyrics over his face as he sings. There’s a more serious, official electric guitar version recorded within another corner of his room, which was ultimately submitted as a Tiny Desk entry. But out of all these versions, the one that stands out the most is the one that seems like the most impromptu. Filmed in a car and shot at an unflattering and unfocused camera angle by one of his friends, this version of “Like a Knife” is the most intimate and raw. Here, Singh allows his emotions to break through and lets his voice wander… occasionally straining to hit his notes but remaining undoubtedly passionate. It’s this version of the song where we’re able to see his gusto as a singer, allowing him to fully pour his heart and soul into each and every word.
Though each of these versions has their own little quirks that separate one from the other (instrumental changes, murmuring background singers), the core of Singh’s song–the theme that obsession breeds loneliness–always remained in the heart of the song’s message. Borrowing from Christian iconography to tell his story (much like in the American folk tradition, though Singh was raised Sikh), “Like a Knife” sounds rugged and lived-in. “Come and be my miracle / Make fall from my bed a gospel of sheets / Like when we breathed of that burning bush / I don’t think I ever felt so sweet,” he reminisces, subtlely referencing a miscommunication that has been immortalized by Singh’s voice.
Unlike it was on those other versions, Singh’s Americana drawl comes through stronger than ever; his storytelling style strengthened by years of practice. He allows his voice to stretch out and reach, controlling it rather than leaving it wildly unrestrained. Recent political events have also shaped the song’s narrative–the song’s chorus was retroactively added to reflect on Singh’s feelings about the current state of American politics (“Hope is its own form of blindness”). That feeling of helplessness comes through easily, both in the way that he sings it and in his carefully chosen lyrics.
Even though it’s been seven years after the song was first put on YouTube, “Like a Knife” still remains as fresh as the day he first posted it–ever-evolving alongside the pensive artist who sings it.
Li-Wei Chu is the chief editor of From the Intercom. When he’s not editing drafts and searching for new artists to cover for the website, he loves watching cult films, cooking, and listening to his ever-growing collection of vinyl records. You can follow him on LetterBoxd and make fun of his taste in movies here!