iMi

Album: I, I (2019)
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Songfacts®:

  • This densely textured track weaves between five different vocalists, starting with Mike Noyce on the intro. Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, Camilla Staveley-Taylor and Velvet Negron all come in at verse 1, and James Blake's distorted voice briefly contributes to the track's outro.

    Mike Noyce was Justin Vernon's guitar student during high school. They remained friends and Noyce became part of the Bon Iver live band.

    Camilla Staveley-Taylor is a member of the folk vocal trio The Staves, whose album If I Was was produced by Vernon.

    Jeremy Nutzman (a.k.a. Velvet Negroni) is a member of the Minneapolis-based noise band Marijuana Deathsquads.

    James Blake also contributed synth to "iMi." Vernon and Blake previously collaborated on the English singer-songwriter's ""Fall Creek Boys Choir" in 2011 and "I Need a Forest Fire" five years later.
  • "iMi" originated from an idea that Justin Vernon was working on at April Base in Wisconsin with the engineer, Josh Berg. Minnesota musician Bobby Raps, from the hip-hop/R&B group the Stand4rd, was also there; he brought along the producer Wheezy, who does some of Young Thug and Future's beats. Wheezy added some drum programming. Vernon then completed the song at Sonic Ranch studio in Texas.
  • Like many Bon Iver songs, this one has an enigmatic song title and a word soup of lyrics, making it difficult to decipher. However, given the similarity of the title to the album's name and what Justin Vernon said about its theme, it is likely that the singer is addressing himself.

    I am, I am, I am, I am
    If forgiveness is a chore
    What you waiting for?
    And we been here before?


    A bout of anxiety, the first in Vernon's life, forced him to cancel a tour after the release of 2016's 22, A Million album. Depression took hold; at times it felt like he couldn't breathe. The Bon Iver frontman explained on Annie Mac's Radio 1 show that his struggles with the mental illness served as a major inspiration for the I, I record.

    "It really got me. I was stunned by it. Usually I have my stuff together," he said.

    "That's sort of the story [of the album] for me..." Vernon added, saying that the record is about getting through some tough times. "It's a big clearing, personally and artistically."
  • Justin Vernon starts off the first verse by recalling how he felt numbed by his mental condition.

    Livin' in a lonesome way
    Had me lookin' other ways


    "The lyric describes the feeling of when you're in that spot where you don't feel life," Vernon told Q magazine. "You don't have your wits about you, you don't understand and you can't feel the love around you because you're in this tough place. I was in that place – I couldn't feel love, I couldn't accept love, and yet I was really lonely."

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