Don't Let It Go
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

Versions:
  1. Don't Let It Go (3:08)
    Available on Morning Phase.
    Credits
    Justin Meldal-Johnsen: Bass (Electric)
    Steve Richards: Cello
    Joey Waronker: Drums
    Beck Hansen: Guitar (Acoustic), Producer, Vocals, Vocals (Background)
    Smokey Hormel: Guitar (Acoustic)
    Ben Baptie: Mix
    Tom Elmhirst: Mix
    Roger Joseph Manning Jr.: Piano
 
Lyrics:
Don't Let It Go [Version (a)]:

You better save yourself
From something you can't see
Follow it where it goes
Follow it back to me, I'll keep it here

Don't let it go
Don't let it go
Don't let it go
Don't let it go away
You don't have to let it go away

These are some faults we found
Hollowed out from the years
Don't let them wear you out
Don't let them turn your mind inside out

Don't let it go
Don't let it go away
Don't let it go
Don't let it go away
You don't have to let it go away

In the crossfire there's a story
And how it ends, I do not know

Don't let it go
Don't let it go away
Don't let it go
Don't let it go away

Don't you see how far it's gone away?
Don't you see how far it's gone away?
Don't you see how far it's gone away?
Don't you see how far it's gone away?
You don't have to let it go away
 
The Song:

"Don't Let It Go" can be found on Beck's 2014 album, Morning Phase. Beck played it live once in 2013, possibly before recording it for the album; that version is a little less adorned, but the arrangement and lyrics are more or less identical.

On record, "Don't Let It Go" ended up a haunting folky piece, which slowly adds layers to it. From the beginning, it's acoustic with bass, then some drums and piano come in, and then a mournful cello appears. I wonder if a fuller string section was considered? I like the lone cello though, it really fits well with that "don't let it go" melody.

I've read some criticism of Morning Phase, and some people maintain that the album rings hollow, lacking substance. While I don't agree with that at all--I'm impressed with its expression of emotion. But on "Don't Let It Go," I have been left wondering. It does read very vague.

The verses seem to be saying "let it go" but then the chorus comes in and contradicts that. (And does "don't let it go" contradict "Turn Away," another song on the album?) I feel like something may be missing here (either in the song, or by me).

I mean the opening lines "you better save yourself from something you can't see" does seem to be purposefully non-specific. I'm sure this was all Beck's intention for the song, but I won't lie, I've been a little flustered by this song's words.
 
Live:

Played live 6 times:
Earliest known live version: May 19, 2013
Latest known live version: July 14, 2014

2013

Beck played an acoustic-oriented show in May 2013. They previewed a few songs that would later end up on Morning Phase. I do not know exactly the recording dates for MP, or if the live version in May was early in the song's development or after they had finished it off or what.

This 'early' arrangement though is not far from what would end up on the album. Lyrically, it's mostly the same, except interestingly, the final lines of each verse and chorus. Beck sings "I'll be right here" at the end of the first verse. After the "don't let it go" chorus, Beck sings first "you can't be lost alone" and then later "it can't leave you alone." The "crossfire" bridge's second line is "and you or I know how it ends." Then near the end, instead of "don't you see how far it's gone away?" it's "don't you know how far it's going?"

2014

Somewhat surprisingly, on the Morning Phase tour of 2014, Beck rarely played "Don't Let It Go." There were just 5 versions, out of 57 shows. The arrangement on stage stuck to the way the record builds (adding one instrument at a time as the song progresses). Not much to them, though the ones I have heard sound pretty nice (especially in Roger's piano and duet with Beck at the end of the song).