Sleeping at Last made an album that lasts

Samantha Hudock, Senior Contributor

Sleeping at Last is a musical project created by Ryan O’Neal that has become known for its use of instrumental backing tracks to paint vivid pictures of the subjects of their songs. Sleeping at Last is widely known for their song “Turning Pages,” which is on the Twilight Saga’s soundtrack. Their album, Enneagram, released in 2019, features a tracklist of nine songs, each encompassing one of the nine personality types detailed on the Enneagram Test.

“One” opens with a twinkling piano, the lyrics hopeful and optimistic. Type Ones are noted to be idealistic and strive to make a difference in the world. The chorus swells after each verse…I want to sing a song worth singing… The lyrics start off almost desperate, the singer is willing to do whatever it takes to leave their impact on the world…The list goes on forever for the ways I could be better…But as the song progresses, the singer realizes they aren’t expected to be perfect to make a positive difference. The final chorus is quiet and almost wistful, the music swelling in the background. Throughout the entire piece we hear the tinkling piano motif, and it grows with the singer until it fades away…grace requires nothing of me…

While Ones primarily strive for inner transformation, Twos are extremely caring and self-sacrificial. The lyrics in “Two” tell the story of an individual who is offering to give up a piece of themselves to save the person they love…you know I’ll take my heart clean apart if it helps yours beat…The singer spends nearly the entire song focusing on their lover. The backing in the chorus is brisk and lively, the strings pulsing as they support the persistent lyrics…Like a force to be reckoned with… However, they are also gentle and easily able to adapt to what the person the singer cares for needs…a mighty ocean or a gentle kiss… As the song progresses, the singer’s own problems shine through, and they talk about hiding themselves until they have time and no longer need to focus on anyone else…I just want to learn how, to somehow, be loved myself… Twos are often quick to forget their own needs until it builds up and their selfless mask cracks, but they are still willing to do what they can to hold up their loved ones. O’Neal does an incredible job portraying both the selfless and selfish sides to this enneagram type.

“Three” has a melody that resonates throughout the song. It starts with a piano, then O’Neal echoes it in the first verse. Threes are success oriented and are conscious of how they appear to others. The Three in O’Neal’s song is lamenting about their image as a people pleaser and has decided that they’ve done enough for everyone else – it was time for them to live for themselves. I love this song because it focuses on being able to learn from the negative experiences one has and use them to grow. The lyrics are simple and resonant, just like the melody…I finally see myself… Threes spend so much of their time living for others, and it can be easy to lose yourself in your selflessness…I only want what’s real, set aside the highlight reel… The final verse reminds the listener that despite our failures we are all worthy of love and appreciation.

Four starts off almost melancholy, with a singing cello and brass line. Fours are sensitive and withdrawn, often praised for their creativity and wanting to change the world…if God hid the building blocks, Of every beautiful thing… Fours strive to be unique and influential to everyone around them, and their most basic fear, as described by the Enneagram test, is having no identity or significance. I’m a type four myself, and I did resonate with this song. My favorite line on the entire album is also in this song: I can’t help but think that ordinary has swallowed the key… This line, according to O’Neal, had a double meaning. Being ordinary can be seen as a means to be unique or can take away the uniqueness fours strive for. The instrumentals become more intricate going into the second verse and builds into the chorus…For a moment we get to be glorious…As the song grows and the story continues to unfold, the key changes and O’Neal laments about being stuck in the past and their self-perceived image. Fours determine their self-worth by their ability to do great in the world, and they strive to find who they truly are. The last few lyrics of the song add a hopeful air to the song…What if we already are, Who we’ve been dying to become…Fours are idealistic and see the great in everyone but themselves, and I think O’Neal, again, captured the spirit of this Type very well.

Fives are innovative and strive to possess knowledge. This track is different from the rest because nearly half of the five minute and fifty five second song is instrumental. O’Neal revealed in his podcast, where he did a segment describing his process behind each song, that he thought he needed to capture how “cerebral” Fives are through the instrumental. The bubbling background music with lyrics that embody the fascination Fives have with the world are inspiring and fascinating within themselves…It’s like an out-of-body experience…However, we also see the side of Fives that tend to be isolated and in their own world. Fives can delve so deep into their interests and fascinations that they can lose themselves to it, struggling with their emotional side…but something gets lost from a safe distance and now I can’t put my mind to rest…The end of the song mirrors the beginning. O’Neal explains that he wanted to start the song with emotional distance and end it with intimacy, showing both the emotional and logical sides of Fives and capping the song off with a brief interlude that mirrors the beginning.

Sixes are reliable and fear losing their support systems. The melody that brings in the song is airy and dependable. The lyrics showcase the anxiety and skeptical sides of this type…My mind was heavy, Running ragged with worst case scenarios… The relaxed and laid back instrumentals juxtapose the anxious nature of Sixes, showing their strive to become more fearless…I want to take shelter but I’m ready, ready to fight, And somewhere in the middle I feel a little paralyzed…In the case of O’Neal’s character, they learn to chose to be brave despite their fears. Learning to make peace with their fears is something that sixes can do to combat their anxious nature…To trust that there will be light, Always waiting behind, Even the darkest of nights…

“Seven” starts with an upbeat and happy melody. Sevens are extraverted, restless, and adventurous. They can, although, be reckless and scatter-brained. The track showcases the optimism of this enneagram type…I’ll find the silver lining no matter what the price…Sevens are able to figure out to see the bright side of everything, even when they feel like they aren’t making any progress. However, they do struggle to live in the moment, always looking toward the future…But I want to be here, Truly. Be. Here, To watch the ones that I love bloom… Sevens latch onto the future, always ready for what is happening next, and the floating melodies and airy instrumentals are indicative of those traits.

“Eight” has a sense of urgency and command to it that none of the others really capture. The instrumental starts with simple brass beats and a staccato melody. Eights are afraid of vulnerability and will often close themselves to others, seeing naivety as weakness. The chorus gives off a sense of sadness and anger towards being hurt – eights are scared of rejection, so they’d rather close others out…But I can’t let you see all that I have to lose, and all I’ve lost in the fight to protect it… The song ends with a crooning lament, the singer explaining that they want to be able to be vulnerable and open themselves to the ones they love. The key changes to a major key, and we see the singer grow enough to open up and present themselves to their loved ones…I’m all in, palms out, I’m at your mercy now and I’m ready to begin, I am strong, I am strong, I am strong enough to let you in…The final chorus is determined and strong willed. This eight has learned how to be vulnerable and will give what they must to show who they truly are and shatter the hard shell they hid themselves in.

Nines are peacemakers. They also tend to detach themselves from the world when things get hard. The song starts acapella- only O’Neal is singing, no backing track…Who am I to say what any of this means, I have been sleepwalking, Since I was fourteen… The gentle piano and O’Neal’s crooning voice provides a melancholy look into his own Enneagram type. “Nine” encourages Nines to reach out and face their fears of disturbing the peace…Wake up, Fall in love again, Wage war on gravity…Nines often forget who they are, and O’Neal’s character is looking for signals on how to act after losing so much of their life from detachment…How do I forgive myself…For losing so much time?…However, the chorus swells and grows after the second verse, showing the growth as Nines learn to allow themselves to stir up the peace and, as O’Neal put it, “wage war on gravity.”

Overall, I loved this album. O’Neal uses both instrumentals and lyrics to really drive home the emotions and thoughts behind each Enneagram type. I’ve been listening to Sleeping At Last for years, and this is probably my favorite album they’ve produced.