Karen Elson’s life story reads a bit like a backwards country song: World-famous supermodel becomes unknown singer-songwriter. But on “Broken Shadow,” Elson’s new single on her forthcoming third album Green, the road-less-glamourous oddly sounds like the more invigorating one. “When I was young, I let the darkness drag me down, but I’m not afraid these days,” she sings.
Following her 2021 single “Lightning Strikes,” “Broken Shadow” is an inviting, country-pop song. But as the title suggests, that charming melody papers over deeper emotional territory. In the lyrics and delivery, Elson throws ambiguous winks at the themes undergirding the music’s vague sense of surrender. “[It’s] about recognizing that we’re all flawed, complicated, and a little bit fucked up,” Elson said in a statement, “and making peace with that.”
Elson said that the lyrics “poured” out of her and that it’s one of her most autobiographical songs. In the accompanying video, which Elson co-directed with Emily Dorio, clips of smashed mirrors and a python encircling her neck are juxtaposed with Elson under a shaky spotlight, singing, strumming alone; averting her gaze from the camera or looking beyond it. For those who know Elson as the girl in the White Stripes’ “Blue Orchid” video, consider this a 180-degree turn.
If the semi-sweet flavor of acoustic guitar music sounds familiar, it should. “Broken Shadow” was cowritten and produced by Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk, the duo behind Kacey Musgraves’ dazed, Grammy-winning sensation, Golden Hour. Tashian and Fitchuk co-produced all of Green, which arrives April 29 via Big Yellow Dog. Elson’s previous albums include The Ghost Who Walks, Double Roses, and an EP called Radio Redhead, Vol.1.
“Broken Shadow” is also on the soundtrack for Moonshot, a new sci-fi romantic comedy on HBO Max starring Zach Braff (out March 31). The movie soundtrack also features two additional songs by Elson, “Wild Blue” and “Heaven Shines a Light” (which is sung by the singer-songwriter, Cyn.)