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Hear Elliott Smith’s Alternate Take on ‘Ballad of Big Nothing’

Elliott Smith / Photo by Getty Images

Elliott Smith’s former label home, Kill Rock Stars, has offered up another glimpse into the late singer and songwriter’s legacy. An alternate take on his 1997 album Either/Or‘s gut-punching “Ballad of Big Nothing” shows how Smith’s much-loved lyrics were ever-changing rather than static. The song’s strummy folk-pop arrangement remains intact, but a few lines here and there are different: “sleeping with a plastic doll” instead of “having had enough of it all,” “urban blight and personal decay” instead of “up all night and down every day,” and a couple of less immediately decipherable changes in the first verse.

As with previous Either/Or outtakes Kill Rock Star has shared this month in honor of what would’ve been Smith’s 43rd birthday — “Alameda,” “Punch and Judy,” and “Angeles” — this slightly darker version of “Ballad of Big Nothing” is certainly welcome. After all, it’s previously unheard Smith! But we’d still stress that you should first hunker down for some lonely nights with Smith’s official recordings, which, conveniently, are discounted through the label’s online store all this month.