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Track Review

Danny O'Donoghue, Mark Sheehan and Glen Power describe their band, The Script, as a purveyor of "Celtic Soul." Born and raised in Ireland, these musicians have built a sound that honors their myriad rock and R&B influences yet holds true to a certain Gaelic sensibility. "Soul is not a black thing or a white thing," says Sheehan on The Script's website. "It's a human thing."

The Script had its genesis in Dublin when O'Donoghue and Sheehan were in their early teens. Hanging out on rough-and-tumble James Street, the two became friends based on their shared love of American R&B.

"One day I heard Stevie Wonder singing, and the hairs on the back of my neck went up," says lead singer O'Donoghue. "I didn't even know people could sing like that, I'd never heard the acrobatics of it before."

Both credit music with keeping them (mostly) out of trouble, but The Script didn't truly gel until the two of them met Glen Power. The trio officially launched in 1996, flying to Los Angeles with the desire to make it big.

But tragedy struck, turning their American dream to drought. Sheehan's mother, they learned, was terminally ill, so The Script flew back to Dublin and continued to work on music as Sheehan spent a few precious last months with his mother. Shortly after that, O'Donoghue's father died, too, from an unexpected heart attack.

"I came home so that Mark could spend time with his mum," O'Donoghue says. "Little did I know that I was actually getting to spend that precious time with my dad. That was the time when it finally came home to me how important music was to me, 'cause in my darkest moments that's what got me through."

Indeed, The Script's music gives voice to pain, and the band's first U.S. hit, "Breakeven," is no exception. The song, which sounds like an R&B-tinged take on Maroon 5 by way of the Emerald Isle, laments love gone wrong. And O'Donoghue's lilting falsetto eloquently expresses the almost embarrassing sense of loss that ensues. "What am I supposed to do when the best part of me was always you?" he wonders, "And what am I supposed to say when I'm all choked up that you're OK?"

These are not proud thoughts, but they are honest—the kind of stuff anyone who's gone through a fractured relationship experience can likely relate to. As the chorus of the song says, "When a heart breaks, no it don't break even."

For the most part, the tune is a thoughtful take on heartbreak. But it does contain a troubling line that's repeated a couple times: "Just prayin' to a god that I don't believe in." It's an interesting phrase that, when studied closely, might be taken almost as a kind of bitter psalm, a call to faith and prayer even in times when God seems distant or absent. Taken at face value, though, the phrase could just as easily be interpreted as the musings of a pessimistic agnostic.

Despite moments of raw honesty, then, "Breakeven" ultimately feels pessimistic as it captures the sentiments of a man so heartbroken he can't conceive of a time when he might feel better. "I'm falling to pieces," O'Donoghue repeats again and again. "I'm falling to pieces."

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Peaked at No. 12 on Billboard's Hot 100.

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August 31, 2009

On Video

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Paul Asay

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