Passenger – “Let Her Go” Review
For many adult pop music fans, the sound of “Let Her Go” will be instantly familiar. It is the breakthrough pop hit from Passenger, aka Mike Rosenberg. It sounds like classic 1970s singer-songwriter pop, perhaps most notably the work of Cat Stevens. However, for younger pop fans it will feel like an intimate surprise sandwiched between heavily produced uptempo dance-pop on the radio. The warm sound will charm most listeners. “Let Her Go” is a welcome addition to current pop music playlists.
- A beautiful, intimate arrangement
- Passenger’s fragile acapella vocals
- Lack of original concepts in the lyrics
- Written by Mike Rosenberg
- Produced by Mike Rosenberg and Chris Vallejo
- Released April 2013 by Warner Bros
Mike Rosenberg formed a band called Passenger in 2003 in England. The group broke up late in the decade, and Mike Rosenberg chose to keep the name Passenger as his recording name. It is a pleasingly wistful name that fits his brand of folk-pop. “Let Her Go” is a song that will sound like the 1970s work of Cat Stevens for many. There are also similarities to the work of James Blunt. Touring as an opening act for Ed Sheeran has helped bring Passenger to widespread attention.
The group Passenger gained some attention at home in the UK with the album Wicked Man’s Rest released in 2007. The band broke up in 2009. After the breakup of the group, Mike Rosenberg kept the Passenger name and started busking to continue his music career. After heading to Australia, his debut album Wide Eyes Blind Love was released in 2009. Mike Rosenberg gained support in the Australian indie music community. Many of his supporters appeared as guest performers on his second solo album Flight of the Crow released in 2011.
Lyrically, “Let Her Go” centers around the concept of the line, “Only know you love her when you let her go.” That is not a particularly original observation, but it sounds much more profound when surrounded by an arrangement of acoustic instruments including sonorous strings. The recording kicks off with a gentle playing of the song’s hook followed by Passenger’s nearly acapella vocals. The volume and intensity of the song build until it drops back to an actual acapella break that ends the record. The production of “Let Her Go” is quite beautiful and adds a feeling of depth that is not quite supported by the lyrics.
“Let Her Go” has been a massive pop hit around the world. It has gone to #1 on pop singles charts in at least a dozen countries around the world while peaking at #2 in the UK. Here in the US it became a chart dark horse and climbed to #5 on the Hot 100 while topping both the adult pop and the adult contemporary charts. It also went to the top of the rock songs chart. “Let Her Go” helped the album All the Little Lights climbed to #26 on the US album chart. In the wake of the success of the single, Passenger released the 2014 album Whispers in June 2014. He commented that it was, “easily the most ‘up’ album I’ve ever made, it’s quite cinematic. There are lots of big stories and big ideas.” The album reached #12 on the US album chart. It reached #1 on the US folk album chart. However, the singles from the album “Hearts on Fire,” and “Scare Away the Dark” failed to make an impact on US pop charts.
“Let Her Go” earned a nomination for British Single of the Year at the Brit Awards. It also won an Ivor Novello Award for Most Performed Work.
In April 2015, Passenger released his sixth studio album Whispers II. He announced that all of the proceeds would go to UNICEF UK’s initiatives in Liberia. Passenger said, “It’s so exciting to be able to work with UNICEF on such an important campaign. Money raised from these sales will go directly towards food and supplements to help bring severely malnourished kids back to health.” Whispers II reached the top 10 on the US folk albums chart.