Michelle Branch – Everywhere

Released: 1st April 2002

Writers: Michelle Branch / John Shanks

Peak position: #18

Chart run: 18-26-32-36-49-72
Billboard Hot 100 chart run: 62-52-43-37-31-24-21-19-17-13-12-14-17-20-29-39-51-58-64-63

Michelle Branch’s debut single proved true to its name in the early ‘00s because – in America, at least – her music was Everywhere.

Although she started singing and attending vocal lessons at a very young age, Michelle Branch wasn’t gifted her first guitar until she turned 14. Yet, such was her innate musical ability that she’d composed her first song within days. While continuing to write during her teens, Michelle Branch started playing gigs at bars and restaurants in her hometown (Sedona, Arizona). She recorded an independently funded album titled Broken Bracelet in 2000 and landed a support slot on several dates of Hanson’s This Time Around Tour. That proved to be a turning point as, shortly afterwards, Michelle Branch signed with Madonna’s Maverick Recordsand began creating her debut album proper.

Among the potential producers she met with was John Shanks. The product of their first session together (You Set Me Free) impressed the label so much that they requested more material from the pair. During those early sessions, Michelle Branch shared an incomplete acoustic version of Everywhere that executives at Maverick Records had previously dismissed. Believing the track had potential, John Shanks insisted they finish it. Several changes were made – the chorus had been written in a lower key and performed falsetto – and though the label was initially unenthused, that quickly changed when they heard the finished version. Such was their delight that Maverick Records expanded the budget for Michelle Branch and John Shanks to continue working together. Little did they know the pair were already well on their way to completing what would become The Spirit Room, which included several tracks reworked from Broken Bracelet.

The label’s rapturous response to Everywhere meant it was chosen as Michelle Branch’s debut single and serviced to radio in July 2001. That now feels a little more significant than anyone could have known at the time. Although the bubblegum pop era wasn’t quite over, mid-2001 marked a turning point where things started to change: *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys weren’t far off announcing their respective hiatuses, while Britney Spears would shortly release I’m A Slave 4 U, marking a significant shift in her sound. Michelle Branch appealed to a similar demographic but offered something different at a point where things were naturally evolving. Everywhere’s reach extended beyond that, though. Critics were also enamoured, with some drawing comparisons to Alanis Morrisette. another Maverick Records act. The track was, thus, perfectly poised to pick up exposure through the predominantly teen-orientated MTV while also making inroads at adult and mainstream radio.

While the lyrics are immediately relatable to a younger audience by virtue of being sung by an 18-year-old artist, the teen angle is, otherwise, fairly circumstantial. Michelle Branch’s ruminations: “Just tell me how I got this far, just tell me why you’re here and who you are, ‘cos every time I look, you’re never there, and every time I sleep, you’re always there” are performed with believable sincerity but not to the extent of being a deeply personal autobiographical account. That’s precisely as she intended: Everywhere – and The Spirit Room as a whole – are constructed around situations and emotions that would resonate with audiences but whose meaning could be subjectively interpreted. There’s a daydreamy poetic quality running through the track (“I recognise the way you make me feel, it’s hard to think that you might not be real, I sense it now, the water’s getting deep, I try to wash the pain away from me, away from me”) that is timelessly enduring.

Everywhere isn’t just a statement of Michelle Branch’s songwriting talent; it also showcases a singing style with a strong sense of identity. The slick production with breezy, thrashing guitars might have been radio-friendly, but it’s the heavily accentuated vocal riffs (“Turn it inside out so I can see-uh, the part of you that’s driftin’ over me-uh, and when I wake yo-o-ou’re-uh, you’re never the-ruh, and when I sleep yo-o-ou’re-uh, you’re everywhe-ruh, you’re everywhere”) that truly make the track stand out. They create a natural curiosity about Michelle Branch; it’s impossible to listen to Everywhere and not feel something, whether about her or the song. That being said, it’s not a singing style which will necessarily be to everyone’s taste, and it noticeably softened as Michelle Branch got older. Indeed, when she re-recorded The Spirit Room in 2021 to celebrate the album’s 20th anniversary, many of those quirks were no longer present, though her tone remains as warm and engaging as ever.

The alterations made to the chorus during those early sessions with John Shanks proved fundamental to the appeal and – ultimately – the success of Everywhere. It’s hard to imagine the song landing quite so well as it did at the time without such a rousing singalong hook: “’Cos you’re everywhere to me, and when I close my eyes, it’s you I see. You’re everything I know that makes me believe, I’m not alo-woah-woah-one, I’m not alone” belted with driving guitars alongside. As Everywhere builds through the final chorus, the lyrics are developed to give a further sense of urgency: “’Cos you’re everywhere to me, and when I catch my breath, it’s you I breathe, you’re everything I know that makes me believe, I’m not alo-woah-woah-one…” which gives the track a gratifying, fist-clenching crescendo. What works so well is that the chorus – though undoubtedly well-written – doesn’t feel overthought. It could almost be lifted from the pages of a diary, such is the clarity and honesty of expression.  

In its closing moments, Everywhere delivers a melancholic coda: “You’re in everyone I see, so tell me, do you see me?” that makes such a big track suddenly seem very small and personal. It captures how emotions can be experienced in an intense and all-consuming way without ever knowing how the other person feels. That perspective is true of any relationship – whether actual or desired – and frames Everywhere in a slightly more profound way.

The accompanying music video portrays Michelle Branch living in an apartment block and having what, in hindsight, is most definitely a slightly unhealthy obsession with a neighbour. That’s not how it’s played, of course, but she’s shown gazing across the street into his window and taking Polaroid photos of him (something that’s been happening long enough for the wall in the corner of the room to be filled with them). At one point, Michelle Branch spots the man walking in the street below and runs from her apartment in pursuit. But it’s too late; he’s nowhere to be seen. She returns home dejectedly…only to find him standing in the middle of the room smiling; so, it turns out that her overfamiliarity and lack of boundaries is reciprocated, after all.

While the concept doesn’t quite hold the same hazy romanticism when watched through adult eyes, what’s clear is how ahead of the curve Everywhere was in terms of marketing. Visually, it fits the late ‘90s/early ’00s MTV look with oversaturated colour schemes and lavish sets (there’s no question of how or why Michelle Branch is in a massive apartment – she just is). Furthermore, scenes where she plays with her band at a house party are squeaky clean; a few people are holding cups, and a couple are shown kissing, but nothing so debaucherous occurs that would be deemed inappropriate for younger audiences. Yet, Michelle Branch – playing guitar while dressed in jeans and a hoody – is resolutely not styled like most teen pop singers were. She still exudes star quality, but the look is more casually cool than celebrity, and it would soon become a much-emulated image.

Everywhere went on to be a breakthrough success for Michelle Branch. In America, it entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #62 and climbed steadily to reach a peak of #12 thanks to solid airplay from Adult, Mainstream and Top 40 radio. The track has since secured a lasting legacy as an early ‘00s teen staple. In many ways, it was a forebearer to the spikier pop-rock of Avril Lavigne and rallying, singalong choruses of Kelly Clarkson that defined large parts of the decade. Yet, that isn’t so much true of Everywhere in the UK. The track was released nine months later – in April 2002 – and peaked at #18. Undoubtedly, some people remember the song fondly; however, radio support was surprisingly modest (it reached #53 on the airplay chart), and the song spent four weeks in the top 40. Not to take anything away from what Michelle Branch achieved in the UK, but it does feel, in some respects, that Everywhere might’ve been much bigger six months or so later just because of where the market headed.

That difference was also seen in how The Spirit Room campaign played out. Alongside several further hits in America, songs from the album were widely used across TV and movies at the time. Most notably, Michelle Branch appeared in Charmed and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, performing Goodbye To You. Her material permeated popular culture, and The Spirit Room became one of those albums that sold quietly but consistently. It spent 86 weeks on the Billboard 200 – but only eight of those were in the top 40 – and never peaked higher than #28. Yet, it’s been certified for sales exceeding two million copies and remains Michelle Branch’s biggest-selling album. Meanwhile, despite the UK being exposed to her music in many of the same ways, that didn’t translate commercially. The Spirit Room debuted and peaked at #54, exiting the top 75 after two weeks.

Michelle Branch mightn’t necessarily have garnered critical and commercial acclaim on the scale she deserved outside of America as the album campaign faltered after Everywhere. However, the quality of her material speaks for itself; it’s aged incredibly well. Moreover, ripples from the impact and influence of The Spirit Room on pop music are still felt even now.

Post Author: cantstopthepop