I wrote "The Advice Song (Just Give Up)" immediately after hearing Lori McKenna's own advice song, "Humble and Kind." Songwriters I respected couldn't stop talking about it, but the lyric really sat badly with me. While I'm sure it was well-intended, the words made me feel worse, not better, about my life, because they didn't seem to offer anything more than comforting lies: hard work is always rewarding; if you put kindness into the world you'll get it back; childhood is magical; grandparents are full of wisdom - that sort of thing. I was in a bad spot at the time, and I had already realized that McKenna's sort of thinking was only feeding it. I was telling myself inspiring lies similar to those in the song, but deep down I knew it was all nonsense.
What had helped me was refusing to wait for things to get better, and resisting the urge to claim things were better than they were. Rather, I looked the demon in the eye: I just accepted the way things were, and began to work to come to terms with it. I was still standing at the end, which seemed like an achievement. This is really what the final line of the song is about: Things are really bad when you can't look honestly at your life. There's something valuable in those grim thoughts.
The real reason this song works, though, is the arrangement. The lyrics on the page are miserable, but, because of Richard Clements' synths and Meghan Engel's string arrangement, the sentiment of the song isn't. They both manage to find a sort of glacial beauty in the song, so that it manages, at least in my opinion, to be strangely inspiring. This is the song most people have connected to on this album, and I think Meghan and Richard have a lot to do with that.