Nick Cave’s “Hollywood” is a powerful ode to losing a child
Nick Cave's anticipated new double album Ghosteen arrived a few hours early today. It's clearly a very powerful album, and there's a lot to unpack, but one of its most major standouts on first listen is its 14-minute closing track "Hollywood." Like Nick Cave's last album, 2016's Skeleton Tree, death looms largely over Ghosteen, and it's hard not to draw lines between the stories on this album and the tragic death of Nick Cave's teenage son, who fell from a cliff at age 15 the year prior to Skeleton Tree's release. The theme of a parent losing a child is most explicit on "Hollywood," where Nick sings the story of a woman named Kisa, who was forced to bury her baby. Like most songs on Ghosteen, Nick sings over an atmospheric backdrop with minimal percussion, though the instrumentation on "Hollywood" is distinctly more menacing than the others on this LP. In the first portion of the song, Nick sings in first person and repeats in his usual lower register, "I'm just waiting now, for my time to come," sounding even more grizzled and wearied than he did on Skeleton Tree. Then he makes the rare decision to switch to an upper register to tell Kisa's story, and he punctuates the story with the repeated line, "Everybody's losing someone." It's the kind of line where, with just three words, Nick delivers even more impact than he does with his lengthy screeds. Then, to tie everything together, he once again sings, "I'm just waiting now, for my time to come," this time in the same upper register he used to tell Kisa's story. It brings the song full circle, but it's not a neat ending. As the song ends with a final, vibrato-ing screech, it sounds very literally like an ellipses, not a period.