5 min read

Heartache And Bailey Zimmerman

Heartache And Bailey Zimmerman

TikTok star turned country newcomer Bailey Zimmerman has THE summer bummer anthem, and it could soon become a crossover hit.

If you've been to a wedding or middle-class suburban house with Hobby Lobby decor, you've undoubtedly encountered 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy; it does not boast; it is not proud. It does not dishonor others; it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

That passage has brought feelings of peace and warmth to countless millions across centuries, but like any other depiction of love, it's woefully incomplete.

Love is patient and kind, but it can also be difficult. Love is not guaranteed. Love is a lot of hard work, and anyone who claims differently either doesn't know love or is unaware of what lies ahead. Loving someone means being there for the highest heights and most devastating lows. It's a celebratory dinner for a surprise bonus on your latest paycheck and a hand to hold while your parents are buried side-by-side in a funeral plot you'll try to visit when time and emotional fortitude allows. Love is an ongoing act of selflessness that can produce one of life's most precious experiences—a shared existence—but can also lead people to ruin.

Capturing the chaos and complex emotions of romantic turmoil is a difficult task. As much as movies love to dabble in dramatics, most pull far more punches than any real argument. They must! Nobody wants to see real life on the big screen. They may complain about superheroes and other IP, but make no mistake—movies are made (primarily) for escape. Classic business thinking tells us everything, including romantic matters, must be sanitized and streamlined to be perfectly positioned for mass consumption.

And if we're being honest, the complexities of relationships are difficult to describe in a concise and engaging manner. I can tell you that my partner and I had an argument about this or that, and I can tell you what we both said, but that brief snapshot of a single interaction tells you almost nothing about the emotions fueling the words. You don't know who we are or how we came together. You don't know the things I won't admit and the truths I'd never share without her consent. It's just too much to get into, or at least, that's what we're taught.

But exceptions exist for this willing to search for them. There is a heartbroken storyteller for every weary-eyed soul, and countless songs have been written to tackle specific moments of turbulent emotions with tact and honesty.

In "Rock And A Hard Place," newcomer Bailey Zimmerman captures a moment of great romantic conflict and the complicated emotions involved. Aided in songwriting by Heath Warren, Jacob Hackworth, and Jet Harvey, Zimmerman wastes no time bringing listeners up to speed on a strained relationship and how things came to be:

We've been swingin' and missin'
It ain't broke yet, but damn, it needs fixin'
Been a while since your kiss felt like kissin'
It's just different

If you cannot relate to that, you're among the luckiest or loneliest people on the planet. Most have stayed in a relationship too long, and many have felt the drain of a troubled romance long before the pairing inevitably split. We convince ourselves we have to fight to make things work even when the pieces we're given don't seem to fit, and we often drive ourselves insane trying to find a solution.

But the moment that cuts to the bone comes in the pre-chorus. With the situation made clear for listeners, and the audience no doubt asking why someone would stay in such an unhappy scenario, Zimmerman gives us a simple answer:

We've been talkin' 'bout forever since we been together
Somethin' 'bout a ring makes you think we're better
Off with all this, but we're caught in-between

It's the devil you know or the devil you don't, and most people are too afraid of the unknown to take a chance on the possibility there might be something or someone better for them.

In hindsight, the lies we tell ourselves when our relationships turn sour are laughable. We become convinced the children's stories of true love written in the stars apply to us and that whoever we are with at any given moment is the only person who could ever possibly find us worthy of love. We allow ourselves to embody what Gen-Z calls "main character energy" and treat every romantic misfortune as though the universe itself were plotting to destroy us for reasons beyond our comprehension. Rarely do we stop to consider that maybe things were never meant to work out. Better yet—nothing is meant to be at all, and every relationship worth championing is the result of a billion tiny moments shared between two people fiercely committed to making their compatibility work.

In other words, "maybe they're just not that into you."

"Rock And A Hard Place" doubles down on the toxicity of bad relationships in its second verse. "Throwin' in the towel takes some effort," admits Zimmerman. Much like a wedding ring won't fix problems, running away from partners without addressing what caused the issue is no solution. Most people recognize this, at least subconsciously, and decide it's better to stick out their coupling in hopes things change. But again—nothing can change unless you try to change it. Otherwise, you're only setting yourself up for failure, creating an insanity loop that will ultimately destroy both people in the relationship.

But hey—It's still better than signing up for a dating app.

Zimmerman's delivery sells the pain of this experience with grit and heart to spare. He may not have originally written the song—that credit goes to Warren, Hackworth, and Harvey—but his performance makes each line feel lived in, as though he's taking us through memories. While promoting the song on Instagram back in May, a video featuring audio from the song played while text on the screen read: "You all ask me why I quit drinking – I realized that drinking my life away wasn't going to ever bring you back."

My greatest fear with a song as raw and powerful as "Rock And A Hard Place" is that people will misunderstand its point and fall victim to a phenomenon that I like to call the "Lips Of An Angel" effect. In 2005, American rock band Hinder hit the pop-crossover jackpot with a power ballad about cheating that consumers then played to encourage slow dances at every bar, rock festival, and high school prom (including mine) nationwide. The song is literally 4:17 of a man talking to his sidepiece while his girl waits in the next room. People related to it, but they didn't do anything about that recognition of sameness. Instead, they celebrated it! USA! USA! USA!

If you find yourself relating to "Rock And A Hard Place" by Bailey Zimmerman, two things are possible:

  1. You have previously left a toxic relationship and reached a point of personal growth where you can recognize previous bad behavior without romanticizing destructive tendencies. If that is you—congratulations. You should be proud of yourself.
  2. You are currently fighting for a relationship that is undeserving of your commitment. If that is you—RUN. You don't want to be what Rascall Flatts describes as a "Winner At A Losing Game." Life is too short to spend it loving someone who won't or can't love you the same. You are deserving and worthy of love without making Pat Benetar's "Love Is a Battlefield" your life story. Get out of that situation and do whatever it takes to never look back (all while loving and being kind to yourself).

It's a scary world out there, folks. Find someone to love who loves you back and never let go. Just make sure the effort is mutual.