Breathing Space

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2012
Original album - Elysium
Producer - Andrew Dawson, Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - (none)

This relatively slow, atmospheric, and quite lovely ballad features prominent acoustic guitar and a steady undercurrent of short, low, repeated synth notes. Its lyrics are unusually direct, describing the challenges of coping with modern life. For example—

When the pressure's pulling different ways
You find you longing for some empty days

Most of the verse lines are written in the second person, employing the generic "you" to refer to no one in particular but anyone in general. By contrast, the choruses are written in the first person. This back-and-forth use of pronouns leaves the distinct impression that, in this song, the "I" can readily be interpreted as referring to Neil himself as opposed to an imaginary character or narrative persona. For this reason it has also been suggested that "Breathing Space" may concern the particular challenges of pop stardom.

I stop for some breathing space
I pause in a public place
Take time from all the time it takes

When in the second verse Neil sings, "If your muse is out of luck" and needing "an extra rhyme," it only lends credence to this viewpoint. Seeing as how he subsequently describes his desire to "return to a private place," adding a repeated "I gotta get out," it has caused some observers to speculate about the Pet Shop Boys' future as active recording artists. Are we being prepared for their retirement in short order?

But we've heard those speculations before, such as in the aftermath of the previous studio album's "Legacy." While PSB retirement may at some point become inevitable, there was little reason in 2012 to believe that it was pending anytime soon. On the contrary, the Boys quickly asserted that they would release another new album—one far more dance-oriented than Elysium—in short order. As it turned out, Electric appeared the very next year. So rather than a hint at retirement, "Breathing Space" in all likelihood is simply an expression of the all-too-familiar need we nearly all feel now and then to take a break from the hassles and routine of one's chosen profession, even if one's chosen profession happens in this case to be that of singer-songwriter-musician-recording artist.


Officially released

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