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Sharon Van Etten: A Love Song For Everyone

Some love songs celebrate huge emotions — the gale-force power of a romance propelled by intense desire. Others locate small moments and allow them to stand in for love's many ambiguities. Sharon Van Etten is typically a master of the latter: In "Much More Than That," for example, she chronicles a series of small gestures, until it becomes clear that she's declaring her affections by laying every insecurity bare.

"Love More" works in similarly slow motion, but with an uncharacteristically bold and dramatic statement attached: As the song progresses, she lets a bleak and troubled past lay the groundwork for a tiny mantra to live by. After sketching out vague references to a dehumanizing relationship — "You chained me like a dog in our room" — Van Etten turns, subtly but unmistakably, to the way pain, loss and a caring support network can make us better, stronger, more loving people.

Listening to the first two minutes of "Love More," it's hard to imagine that the song will soon evolve into a rebuttal against self-pity, and into an ode to loving fearlessly, growing from failure and leaning on others. If the song's only message were to "love more," that'd probably suffice, but Van Etten takes the time to say much more than that, and in stunning fashion.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)