Closer to Fine – Indigo Girls

Song: Closer to Fine
Album: Indigo Girls
Performer: Indigo Girls
Writer: Emily Saliers
Year: 1989

I love Indigo Girls. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers are strong women who make great music and often use their music as a means to bring awareness to political issues, particularly LGBT rights and environmental causes. My favorite song of theirs is also their most well-known song. Closer to Fine isn’t specifically political, but a lot of the lyricism points toward a desire to test convention and question authority.

Ultimately, this song is all about self discovery. It’s about looking for answers. It’s about finding out that most things in life that you always thought were black and white really aren’t. All of that was so relatable to me when I heard this song for the first time at the age of 20. And it’s still applicable now – maybe it always will be… but I have a feeling that this period of life will be one where I feel most potently the confusion, joy, and sometimes anger of learning new things.

This song has served both to me as an outrageously fun sing-along and as a huge comfort. I can listen to it and know that I’m not the only one who has gone through the messiness of taking apart a belief system, dismantling the way I see the world, and re-examining almost everything I thought I knew just to be left with the momentous task of putting it all back together – hopefully in a way which will help me function with more clarity and ease. This song is proof that I’m not alone in that, often dark, and seemingly impossible task.

One of the choruses perfectly describes a major issue that I have in accepting new information that might conflict with what I perceive to be reality – the problem of me wanting there to be one solid answer that will tie up every question in a little bow.

We go to the bible, we go through the workout
We read up on revival and we stand up for the lookout
There’s more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in a crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine

I identify in particular with the second verse and the way it depicts the idolization of higher education:

I went to see the doctor of philosophy
With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee
He never did marry or see a B-grade movie
He graded my performance, he said he could see through me
I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper
And I was free.

I fell into the trap of thinking of college as an end goal. I had a lot of trouble seeing past graduation day and once I was actually past it, it took me about a year to pick up the pieces and realize that life is way bigger than those four years. I also look at a dependence on religion or validation from others as similarly futile goals. A lot of times it’s hard for me to direct my attention to the things in my life that truly matter, but I try to remind myself as much as I can to zoom my perspective out onto the bigger picture of what life is. I’m grateful to Indigo Girls for this song because it’s one that continually pushes me to examine my mindset and to see things from multiple angles.

– Kori Caswell

If you want to check out all the songs featured in the “Women in Music” section of this blog, check out this Spotify playlist: