You may have heard this one. Not the Bat For Lashes song, I mean. It’s called “Hot ‘n’ Cold,” and it’s by Katy Perry, who appears to write her songs based on what a 3rd grader would find sexually appealing. Oh yeah, and apparently she also believes drunken homosexuality makes you “edgy” or “unique,” but that’s a different rant. The rant here is that the song makes liberal use of the age old concept of dichotomy, a love of opposites. “You’re hot, then you’re cold / you’re yes, then you’re no,” she sings at the beginning of the chorus, demonstrating that she has looked at the Simple English Wiki page on the concept.
Natasha Khan is not Katy Perry, and “Sleep Alone” is not “Hot ‘n’ Cold.” The former is a weighty, arctic churner, while the other is radio and club ready, and an anthem of any teenage girl ready to make out with her friend at a party to get male attention. But the two are actually remarkably similar in certain ways. Both are, at their core, songs about the concept of being detached from someone, and feeling incomplete, even though they are, in all reality, poison incarnate.
The other similarity is the framework of duality is also present here on “Sleep Alone.” The album, Two Suns, is chock full of them, and this particular song feels like the best example: “They say for every heart high, there must be a low / For every sun ascending, a lonesome moon will grow,” Khan croons over the a slinky, Bjork-lite beat. Khan’s voice warbles in exactly the right places, and it brings out the tension running underneath the song. It’s an ingenious song, because instead of toying with the idea of a love that is (as her mother tells her in the chorus) “a two-hearted dream,” she allows it to swallow her whole, leaving her in a place where the mere act of sleeping alone is impossible. There is a true darkness lurking underneath a song that is, in some ways, very tender, and it’s a truly gorgeous thing. It comes across as the sonic big-sister of the aforementioned “Hot ‘n’ Cold,” because while that song is aware of the concept of duality, it doesn’t know quite what to do with it, and most certainly not to the acrobatic beauty of Khan.
Make no mistake, there’s no contest which one of the two does the job better, and which is a truly better song. It’s interesting, though, that the two musicians can manage to take the same concept, and take it in two completely opposite directions, while staying in exactly the same place.