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Michael's Number Ones: "Breathing" by Lifehouse



December 22, 2001


Sometimes there's an imbalance between how much you love an artist versus how much the public loves them. After the massive success of "Hanging by a Moment", and given the unparalleled love I felt for the song in 2001, I could be forgiven for wondering why the rest of the world didn't see how great Lifehouse's debut album No Name Face was. In reality, "Hanging by a Moment" was probably so successful that the other singles from the album had no room to shine on radio or TV. But I was ready to give my love to more songs from the group, even if the rest of the world wanted to wait awhile. That's why their only other #1 song on my top 40 is a single that's pretty much fallen off the face of the earth.

"Breathing" initially was written by Jason Wade while he was in Blyss, the band that would eventually become Lifehouse, and it appeared on their EP Diff's Lucky Day. The Blyss version is more stripped down than what Lifehouse would wind up recording, probably attesting to the lack of major label support the band had at the time.

It's unclear if Wade is writing about God or his partner in the lyrics. At one point he sings, "I'm trying to identify/the voices in my head/God, which one is you?" In the first chorus, he says he wants to "sit outside heaven's door and listen to you breathing", but later he changes "heaven's door" to "your door", as if he's really speaking about a love interest. As someone who's never been very spiritual, I wouldn't have really made any conclusion that there were any Christian overtones. The lyrics are vague enough that someone like me could still relate to them.

The version Wade and his Lifehouse bandmates recorded for No Name Face is a lot fuller sounding, with a piano resonating distinctly in the background. It's easy for me to see why I would've liked the song as much as I did. It really doesn't sound like much of what was on pop radio in 2001. Sometimes that can be to a song's benefit, but when you're following up a gorilla of a song like "Hanging by a Moment", it probably didn't work to the band's advantage. I don't think it helped that the video for the song isn't particularly memorable. Watching it while writing this post did trigger memories of seeing it on VH1 back in the day, but until then I couldn't even remember a video existing for the song.

With "Hanging by a Moment" still taking up space on the airwaves, "Breathing" had next to no impact on the charts. It missed the Hot 100, and only reached #19 on the Adult Top 40 chart. I heard it enough that it stayed on my chart for 25 weeks, but once it was gone from the radio, the only way anyone would be exposed to the song was if they bought the album.

Lifehouse didn't waste time trying to follow up the success of their debut album; the band released Stanley Climbfall in the fall of 2002. I remember being very excited to get more music from the band, but the public evidently felt differently. Although the album debuted in the top 10 on the album charts, it wound up selling less than half as many copies as No Name Face. Lead single "Spin" managed to get to #10 on my top 40, but it flopped on pop radio, only getting to #71 on the Hot 100.

The band took their time recording their self-titled third album, before releasing it in March 2005. I didn't have high expectations that it would have much of an impact, but the lead single "You and Me" wound up being a huge success, peaking at #5 on the Hot 100 and spending over a year on the chart. It's a spare acoustic ballad, and perhaps the fact that it doesn't try to hit you over the head with its sentiment is why the song was such a hit. Relative to its national success, it didn't make that big of an impression on me, but it still climbed to #14 on my top 40.

The band's fourth album Who We Are saw the band take a more energetic approach to their songs, and while they wouldn't reach the top 10 on the Hot 100 again, they still found durable radio and video airplay with the singles from the album. I thought all the singles were pretty great, which reflected on my top 40 chart. Lead single "First Time" got to #4 in the fall of 2007, followed by "Whatever It Takes" getting to #3 the following year. Finally, the ballad "Broken" reached #4 near the end of 2008.

Lifehouse wouldn't get back into the top 10 of my chart after that. The lead single from the band's fifth album Smoke & Mirrors, "Halfway Gone" peaked at #12 in 2010. Two more albums would follow, but the band went on hiatus after their 2015 album Out of the Wasteland. Other than an EP in 2021, the band has pretty much been off the radar.

I don't know if the public would even notice if the band released a new album. Their sound has a distinct 2000s pop-rock tendency to it, and I doubt it would play well in the TikTok-driven culture we find ourselves in today. Still, it's nice to appreciate music that can slow you down for a few minutes. Lifehouse captured lightning in a bottle for me in the early 2000s, and while there have been plenty of albums in the last 20 years that are superior to Lifehouse's debut, it's hard to explain I felt upon hearing "Hanging by a Moment" and No Name Face for the first time. We won't be seeing Lifehouse in this column again, and we probably won't see many other artists with songs I liked as much as "Hanging by a Moment".


Lifehouse's music featured somewhat prominently during the first season of the Superman backstory TV show Smallville, and the band eventually made a cameo on the show. Here's "Breathing" playing in the background of a scene in the 2002 episode "Rogue".


Shakira's first English-language single, the sultry, throbbing "Whenever Wherever", peaked at #7 behind "Breathing". I'll be there and you'll be near, and that's the deal my dear.

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