"Didn't Have You" - Tom Verberne
by Liv Bjorgum
Nineteen-year-old New Zealand soloist Tom Verberne explores youth and longing with his new song “Didn’t Have You.” The single is the first released track from Verberne’s upcoming album, which will follow the 2018 LP All Kinds of Red. The song, accompanied by a sincere music video, features thoughtful lyrics and a uniquely buoyant tune. Content with infatuation and illusion, Verberne makes disappointment danceable.
“Didn’t Have You” is a fond celebration of a faraway love performed with a pop twist. The song starts with the chorus, immediately imprinting Verberne’s vocals in your mind. Capturing desire and nostalgia alongside upbeat instrumentals, the single’s electric guitar and synth-sounding drums build the song’s foundation on a major key. Most of all, “Didn’t Have You” is not a cynic’s song. “Being hopelessly hopeful is in essence what ‘Didn’t [H]ave You’ is about, ignoring the unrequited love to cling on to the infatuated feelings,” Verberne says, referencing the contrast between the song’s lyrics and instrumentals. He wants “Didn’t Have You” to be “consoling for people with a love ache as even though the lyrics are quite depressing, the beat is happy and fun.”
Often like distorted streams of consciousness, Verberne’s songs capture the essence of self-reflecting youth on the verge of realization. Circling back to themes of longing found in the All Kinds of Red track “Close Hurts” and isolation in the Postcard Boy collaboration “Coffin,” Verberne’s new single makes linear thematic sense while also exhibiting vulnerability and a more pop-centric sound. In “No Contest,” Verberne sings, “see I’m swimming backwards with my backstroke,” evoking a sense of nostalgia. In “Didn’t Have You,” Verberne speaks directly to his emotions rather than the past, singing “Think I’m falling in love with/Feeling a lot,” as if he loves the process of longing just as much as the person themselves.
A new music video accompanies the single, depicting the solitude, oneness, and contradictions of love. Verberne’s self-proclaimed passion for cinema, specifically the immersive worlds of Wes Anderson and the film La La Land, can be seen in the video’s symmetry, guitar motif, and captivating visuals. Directed by James Page and shot by Dexter Chang, the video shows a lone Verberne across many landscapes, from the roof of a car to the center of a web of tree branches. Fragmented, spiraling shots in the video reflect the song’s dreamy feeling, while the geometric, prismatic transitions make it seem like Verberne is examining his own narrative through a broken mirror. Verberne’s singular perspective, both in the sense of its uniqueness and solitude, is shown beautifully throughout. The video features scenes of a band comprised of Verberne, stupid rich kid (featured on All Kinds of Red’s “Fighting” and “Fall”), and Maxwell Young (featured on “Deadhead”) as they perform in an empty theater. All three young artists create intimate music on their own, but their collaborations have bonded them together into a group giving voice to everyday emotions. Both with others and alone, Verberne finds ways to represent the tunnel vision effect of the infatuation he sings of. Later in the video, the camera exposes the audience’s limited perception through its celebration of the zoom feature. In the scene, Verberne plays his guitar, only for it to be revealed that he is on the roof of a car, soon whisked away by an unseen driver. Verberne turns the idea of a crush feeling like getting hit by a car on its head. He is unfazed by the situation, even content with being carried away by his infatuation.
Tom Verberne’s songs are universal in emotion, but distinctive in heartfelt specificity. “Didn’t Have You” offers a peek into the inner landscape of a perceptive artist who treasures reverie.