There are few greater, multi-leveled, musical representations of the word “moving” than James Blake’s “Retrograde.” While the song combines Blake’s brilliant R&B-esque vocals with a hauntingly poignant piece of modern production, the word “Retrograde” itself is also defined as going back in position or time. Blake’s interpretation of that meaning likely refers to his struggles corralling a love interest during her inability to progress out of a series of scarring events. Blake’s toxic empathy is written all over the figurative page as his loved one’s stagnancy becomes destructively regressive. The gripping drama and excitement strewn throughout “Retrograde” and its derivative album Overgrown did not go unnoticed, as the social springboard of an album earned Blake 2013’s esteemed Mercury Prize.
At the onset, “Retrograde” is reclusive in it’s disorienting emptiness filled only by Blake’s enticingly but low-spirited voice. As the song approaches its halfway point, Blake rescinds his lonely and confused vocal structure and instead raises his tone to a distressed pitch. As he bellows the beautifully eerie line “Suddenly I’m hit,” a wave of post-dubstep energy is sent blaring through the synth like a troubled soul being unleashed. The music video’s imagery of an asteroid crashing down on the protagonist’s friends and loved ones is an appropriate representation of the energetically obliterating feeling going through Blake his tries to save the unsavable. As his loved ones wordlessly cry for help, Blake cries for guidance through a mental disorientation that is impossible to escape. Through all that gloom, Blake still keeps “Retrograde” sounding skillfully graceful with a his award-winning artistry.