song reviews

JUST WATCH ME: Cher Lloyd is Getting Activated

How blessed we are to be alive in this, the second #summerofCher, even if it is kind of getting more into the #autumnofCher. I like fall better anyway, so I’m pleased. At any rate, the new season of Cher Lloyd is finally upon us.

Cher Lloyd is very good at this thing which I love, which is the use of straight up nonsense syllables to express emotion. I find something very pure and kind of transcendent about that – the idea that your love, or rage, or whatever else, is too much for language. It started with “Want U Back”, ramped up on Sorry I’m Late with “Dirty Love” and “Just Be Mine”, and now we have “Activated”.

The other thing about this song that makes me really excited for the album is the lack of a traditionally recognizable chorus. I’m seeing it more and more – “Dangerous Woman” is a good example, 5H’s “Flex” and Little Mix’s “Move”, Selena’s “Same Old Love”, Demi’s “Cool for the Summer”, and both of Meghan Trainor’s new singles. There’s still a recognizable refrain, which you can classify as the chorus: they like ‘ooh’, they like ‘ooh / baby just wait on it / when I do the damn thing just watch me. But it’s not as separate from the rest of the song as something like, say, the chorus of “You Belong With Me”. It’s more subtle, less musically distinct. Some of these songs even use the same lyrics as the bridge rather than introduce a new element, simply changing the pacing or the pitch. It makes for a different kind of listening experience, I think, because it’s more difficult to say when the song “should” end. I could listen to “Activated” on a loop for several hours, probably, before I got tired of it or really even noticed that it was repeating. There is nothing to snag, nothing to hang you up in the flow of it. You all know I love Taylor more than life, but you know when a Taylor Swift song is over. This song – and others like it – are less in-your-face. They’re not exactly background tracks; they demand more attention and care than that. But they’re not something that you have to drop everything to focus on. “Activated” is predictable, but in a different way than something like “Sirens” is. It’s difficult to describe, but if you listen to it, you’ll get it.

“Activated” feels more mature than Cher’s earlier work somehow, and that might just be me, but I am so ready for this album, for the direction she seems to be headed in. Hopefully we’ll see more from her soon, and in the meantime, you have this slinky neon video to watch.

The Saddest Songs Are in Major Keys

“Hallelujah California” – Luna Shadows

Daddy always warned that the saddest songs are in major keys is a line that kills me, because this song is not in a major key. But then, songs about California are usually not in major keys. It’s not a sad song at all; it’s just a melancholic California song, a song of mirages, of someone disappearing slowly into the horizon from your seat on the sticky pavement. It’s a song we hear over and over again, from “Hotel California” and “California Dreamin’” to everything Lana del Rey has ever written.

Limits EPMt. Si

Mt. Si unites the unstructured dreaminess of shoegaze with a heavily defined, often jarring beat. They allow a drop here and a chord there to push themselves out from the haze of lazy synths and floating vocals, bringing your attention to their significance in a song you could sleep through. The beat is often melodic and sounds like a natural noise, compared to all the electronica happening around it. While the harmonies and even the tracks themselves tend to melt into each other, that occasional beat gives Limits a sharp, resounding definition.

“U Up” – Soft Lit

From the title alone, I had been convinced that this song was by dudebros. Oh no, I thought, this is a song either relentlessly bashing or misogynistically embracing “u up” and I hate it. I’m so sorry, Soft Lit, for making this stereotypical assumption! Here it is: a lady (okay, and a guy on synths) giving that guy who texted “u up” an even more apathetic response. Sliding into nothing, she whisper-sings. You think like I got time/But you’re not on my mind. It’s not the “u up” itself that is the problem, it’s the dude who just can’t get over her hiding behind the lazy text.

“Don’t Worry About Me” – Frances

Frances reminds us that melodies, in and of themselves, can be sad and beautiful things in her single “Don’t Worry About Me.” If I were listening to it in my room or on a redeye flight far away from home, I would almost certainly cry. But this song eclipses a specific emotion, and my ears tend instead to focus on a single note, a pause, or an elongation. Because there’s so little to parse, I’m forced to focus on subtle changes in harmonies and cadences.

“Souvenirs” – Cardiknox

Thinking of yourself as a tourist in your own relationship is unique in just how cold it feels. “Souvenirs” is in a major key (the saddest songs are in major keys), and through it Cardiknox describes physical objects and scenarios instead of the emotions attached to them, as though they’re foreign to her. She wants — more than anything — to keep those memories as her own, but she describes them as though she’s borrowed them from a stranger.

“Good As Hell” – Lizzo

Lizzo (of “Let ‘Em Say,” a song I’ve been obsessed with since I first heard it for Broad City’s most recent season premier) dropped this single for the sure-to-be-amazing movie Barbershop: The Next Cut. And like any tried-and-true banger, the song comes with an incredible chorus: If he don’t love you anymore/Just walk your fine ass out the door/I do my hair toss, check my nails/Baby how you feelin’? Feelin’ good as hell. This is a love-yourself song that fits in perfectly with a movie that praises the inherent beauty in blackness and uses its community to fight oppression. Go listen to this song, then go reserve your ticket for Barbershop 3, which comes out on April 15.

Carson is a 23-year-old who discovered the joys of the Backstreet Boys two years ago, when she fell down a pink fur-lined rabbit hole into the world of pop. She has since taken it upon herself to make an exodus into the underbelly of the glitter-covered beast. You can find her Spotify account here and you can also find her on Tumblr

all i know are sad songs

I saw Garden State for the first and only time when I was seventeen with a boy I thought I loved who kissed me too rough too heavy too urgent like he had something to prove and it wasn’t about me but I was there. I didn’t think it was a good movie but I cried anyway and I cried again when the sweater he let me take with me to college stopped smelling like him. I still don’t think it is a good movie but I get why it mattered to people and I find myself forgiving it more as I get older, the pitiful shout into the void that it is, the pointless rage against a machine of which it is a part. I haven’t thought about it in a long time but the other day I heard this new Mike Posner song and all I could see was Zach Braff sitting on a couch while the world happens around him.

There is something very uniquely appealing to me about dance songs about sadness. Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own”, Katy Perry’s “The One That Got Away”, a lot of Tove Lo’s body of work, almost all of Sia’s – these are all songs about pain, from the gaping wounds to the paper cuts, all of the varieties of hurt that exist, and they are all songs you can dance to. “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” is one of these, and it is a perfectly crafted song, because it sounds exactly like it feels.

They said “tell us how to make it cause we’re getting real impatient”
So I looked ’em in the eye and said

You don’t wanna be high like me
Never really knowing why like me
You don’t ever wanna step off that roller coaster and be all alone
You don’t wanna ride the bus like this
Never knowing who to trust like this
You don’t wanna be stuck up on that stage singing
Stuck up on that stage singing
All I know are sad songs, sad songs

There are days when writing hurts me more than it helps, when it feels like I am dragging my organs out of my body through my mouth and when I get them out into the light it wasn’t even worth it. There are days when I am convinced that everything I have written and will write is garbage. I am not alone in this; this is not a unique feeling, but it is very isolating, isn’t it? To be convinced of your own terribleness is a weird and addicting form of narcissism, poking at a bruise to watch it bloom purple, I don’t know. But the thing about it is – even when I feel like I am a terrible writer, that my writing is vain and self-serving at best and vain and self-serving and poorly written at worst, what do I do? I keep writing. I don’t know how not to write, so I keep writing. I write that I feel terrible about writing, that I hate writing, that I am sad and alone in the world when I am neither. This is why I forgive Garden State now; this is why I love “ITAPII”. Sometimes the thing that keeps you alive, the only thing that makes you happy, doesn’t really make you all that happy. Sometimes it doesn’t make you want to live. But it is the only thing you have, so what do you do? You make it self-referential, you keep digging it out of yourself. Mike Posner is disillusioned and lonely and tired of making music but he knows it makes him happy, he knows it’s what he is for, and so he wrote a song about it.

I’m just a singer who already blew his shot
I get along with old-timers ’cause my name’s a reminder
of a pop song people forgot
and I can’t keep a girl, no
‘Cause as soon as the sun comes up
I cut ’em all loose and work’s my excuse but the truth is I can’t open up

I think it’s easier to talk about pain in a dance song because people don’t listen as hard; people don’t expect it to be sad. You don’t listen to the Ryan Adams cover of “Shake It Off” if you’re in a good mood, is what I mean. So when Mike Posner calls himself a one-hit wonder, when he says the truth is I can’t open up it almost gets lost, sounds like a throwaway line because he needed a rhyme, and I think that’s how he was able to let himself say it. The original song was an acoustic number, a little ditty with a voice and a guitar and nothing else, but that’s not the song that’s on the radio. Mike Posner decided he was ready for people to hear him again but he wasn’t ready to be quite so honest with it, and so – this remix.

This song feels like sitting on the couch while the world happens around you. It feels like dancing alone in a crowded room watching someone you used to love kiss another girl. It feels like closing your eyes and giving in to your sadness, just for a minute, letting it pour into you and fill you tip to toe and somehow, ultimately, it feels like a kind of happiness. All I know are sad songs, but some of them you can dance to, and that is enough.

New Music Friday: Troye Sivan’s Blue Neighbourhood

This is one of those start-to-finish albums. You don’t just pick and choose your favorite songs, because it is – most certainly – a living, breathing entity. Maybe not a person-entity. Something in its etherealness is more like a cloud. Which isn’t technically living or breathing, but if you remember correctly, I also called an album living and breathing.

Embrace the heavy-handed metaphor as I say this: You can’t pick apart all the pieces of a cloud. It’s too amorphous and undefined, much the way this album swirls and breathes around synths and strings.

So it’s a peaceful cloud, unperturbed by interaction with birds, or planes, or other things in the sky that aren’t precipitation-related. Only the weather affects this cloud, winds altering its course, its tone.

All this being said, an album isn’t a cloud, actually, and I have a review to write. Let’s look at some songs from Troye Sivan’s Blue Neighborhood.

The eighth track off the album, “Cool,” seems to be a dark fantasy letter written to a person who may or may not be Harry Styles. I’ve got that cigarette smoke/and Saint Laurent coat, but nothing is feeling right/I drink but I choke/I love but I don’t.

So here’s a theory for you: Troye in this song wants, more than anything, to live a life of inauthentic glory. And there’s this guide he knows intimately, or desires to know intimately, who lives such a life already. Of course – typical narrative – Troye becomes disillusioned as the song turns past the first chorus. The gentle thrum of the picked guitar adds to the image of this damp club, nearly empty at 3 a.m. but the smoky haze of the flashing lights are still playing a lullaby for Troye’s guide. Can’t you just see Harry Styles in the middle of the dance floor, swaying to music that stopped hours ago? Another figure standing sullenly in the background, a plastic cup of alcohol-soaked ice in hand, acknowledging that yes – this is fucked up, he’s a ruinous shell – but at the same time, I’m a spark, and you’re a boom.

As we sift through the cloud from “Cool” to “Heaven”, featuring Betty Who, we may be looking at the morning after the dark of the night. It’s given way to a cold, grey morning thrown into the harsh light of reality. Reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s “Clean,” its sobriety makes the muddled desire and longing of “Cool” seem irrelevant. “Heaven” should be sober, and frank – it tells Troye’s coming out story. It’s about authenticity, and belonging, and faith.

Without losing a piece of me/How do I get to heaven? And I’m screaming at me/Trying to keep faith and picture his face/Staring up at me. Knowing at least a part of your authentic self, contrasted with the lack of acceptance surrounding it. You’ve been forced to view yourself as a sin, and how do you even come to terms with that?

As Betty Who adds delicate wisps of air, the song reaches its uplifting conclusion: So if I’m losing a piece of myself/Maybe I don’t want heaven? Troye finally opts for authenticity over embracing a false identity. The stakes are higher, but the stakes shouldn’t exist in the first place. So Troye throws them out of his cloud.

The beauty of all these songs is their simple lyricism floating over technically complex structures. Troye wants you to know what’s happening. He’s a storyteller and won’t deny his audience a straightforward metaphor, so he lets his complications come out in what’s buzzing underneath his words. Sampling from its contemporaries and adding its own stories, Blue Neighbourhood becomes its own shapeless cloud in a sky full of definition.

You can stream Blue Neighborhood on Spotify, or download it on iTunes.

Carson is a 23-year-old who discovered the joys of the Backstreet Boys two years ago, when she fell down a pink fur-lined rabbit hole into the world of pop. She has since taken it upon herself to make an exodus into the underbelly of the glitter-covered beast. You can find her Spotify account here and you can also find her on Tumblr

The Sound of Now: Like You Want To

There’s a certain pleasure to be found in music that will date terribly. It’s no bad thing to be the most current thing going, especially if you can keep it up over several years. Kita Alexander’s new EP Like You Want To is the most 2015 thing I’ve heard all year. It’s all so now –– from the retro synths to the production to the lyrics… I mean, I love it.

The best song on the EP is “Wild Heart” and I can’t stop myself from dancing to it. It’s so cheesy, and maybe that would grate, but it’s rescued by Kita’s voice. It’s a glorious, powerful sound and adds hugely to the EP, even with the level of production on the record. Everyone will love this song. Your mom, your brother, your best friend.

Now I need my freedom
And you know it’s true
Don’t make it personal,
Let me do what I gotta do
Let me do what I gotta do

“My Own Way” was actually featured on Asos’ website earlier this year (again, has there ever been a more 2015 EP?) and it looks and sounds like a beautiful #aesthetic instagram account. The fact that she’s Australian is made clear to us by the fact that she surfs quite a lot throughout the video. (Side note: if there were ever to be an Australian indie-pop artist that didn’t surf, how would that go down?) The song is calming — not very insightful, but the production is super. It sounds like the soundtrack to a good teen movie. It’s a soft, shallow song, but that’s a good thing.

The title track “Like You Want To” is nice and all (and horribly catchy – treat this as a warning), but I feel like, to some extent, it’s been done before. Even within this EP it’s been done! But it also echoes artists like Sky Ferreira and Charli XCX. Still, the elements that make this such a good EP are still here: amazing voice, clever instrumentation, and strong production values.

“Wild Heart”, though, guys. If I had to pick just one track. Seriously, that’s where it’s at. It’s so chill, but at the same time, I dare you not to move your body to this song.

Like You Want To combines a lot of retro elements that somehow create an unmistakably 2015 sound, and it’s a perfect snapshot of where we are. You can play it for your grandchildren to explain to them what your youth was.

Claire Cullen is an 18-year-old who lives in Ireland. Recently she has been dealing with Hamilton-related problems, and it’s probably best not to get her started on why. Dedicated to furthering the Liberal Agenda. You can find her on Twitter.


PLAYLIST (with bonus tracks!!!)

Carly Rae Jepsen: “Last Christmas”

Let’s start with the most anticipated in music news (since yesterday, as that’s when Jeppo announced this song). What better avenue to choose for a Christmas 2k15 anthem than Wham’s 1985 hit, “Last Christmas?” E•MO•TION, which we all know is a love-album to 1980s smooth-jazz new-wave, is a canvas for this gem of a pop song. Sax riffs abound in short, spicy spurts, like cloves and oranges resting atop a plump Christmas ham. Carly Rae’s voice floats over scales and murmurs the melody as if she doesn’t even need to be there. Sweetly sing-humming Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas with a familiar sigh, the height of nostalgia and absolutely perfect for the holiday season. Basically, where is the Christmas album???

Miike Snow ft. Run The Jewels: “Heart Is Full”

Of course, the Etta James hook is enough to keep anyone listening. This is the remix of the original, released on October 29, and it does not disappoint. Stereogum called the original song “Chaotic, but beautifully so,” and Run The Jewels adds some balance to “Heart Is Full” that it didn’t know it needed. Killer Mike’s verse, sharp and clear over a muted melody, gives it structure and a subject after the controlled chaos – the buildup — of the hook and chorus. Plus, the pithy delivery – Iced out in Iceland in the blue lagoon, dead of the winter/Stop listenin’ to your loser family, come fuck with a winner – makes for a bundled sound I want to listen to on repeat.

Sofi de la Torre: Mess

It’s hard to talk about the greatness of this EP. Four absolute bangers have dropped today, all broken out into their own theses, part of a larger scheme. “19 in Mexico” reeks of longing, again and again, the antithesis of her chorus: We’re not 19 in Mexico. A song you’d think would be about growing up is about giving in to what you need, losing your virginity and gaining your innocence. Throwing yourself into a relationship you’ve resisted, but it’s so natural you don’t need to let go. “Mess” (the song, not the EP) hits you with a sweet pop beat and the same innocence reiterated in “19 in Mexico,” but the lyrics themselves are tired out and determined. Self-confidence in so much more than just imperfection – more like her own ruinous persona – oozes out of this song by the gallon, and all of Sofi de la Torre, as she says herself, is #popdoneright.

FLETCHER: “Live Young Die Free”

Getting some serious Tarzan vibes from FLETCHER’s “Live Young Die Free.” Both in terms of subject matter and in terms of the Peter Gabriel drums pounding out a beat to the souls of young people sliding down tree branches and swinging on rope vines everywhere. Add in a strong chorus of backing vocalists, the occasional jab of an electronic animal sound, and church bells, and you recreate the heart of a fast- paced Disney musical. “Live Young Die Free” embodies invincibility and palpable strength, daring its doubters to say “You can’t pull this off, you aren’t good enough.” In response: I like the rush; need to feel it on my skin… Don’t tell me what I want/And if I’m gonna bet, I’m gonna bet it all.

Alizzz ft. Max Marshall: “Your Love”

You think you know where this song is going, and then you start hearing the Bop-It sounds, and suddenly it’s all over. “Your Love” starts out like your typical, rushing dramatization of a love dance-pop song. And sure, some of those elements persist throughout its duration. When you add in the “Ow!” and the “boing,” though, chaos reigns and Hit me with your love becomes the mantra of a now-unstable Max Marshall. Every bend and twist in “Your Love” makes for a water slide with limited control. You can just catch a dimly-lit glimpse of where you might be headed, but Alizzz has a few curveballs to throw at you first.

Scroll back up top for the playlist, which also has more tracks you should check out this week from: Kyla La Grange, Allie X, Satchmode, Kaptan, and Adele (!)

Carson is a 23-year-old who discovered the joys of the Backstreet Boys two years ago, when she fell down a pink fur-lined rabbit hole into the world of pop. She has since taken it upon herself to make an exodus into the underbelly of the glitter-covered beast. You can find her Spotify account here and you can also find her on Tumblr

I’ve Had Enough: “Same Old Love” by Selena Gomez

You can watch the video here:

It’s always felt to me like pop stars live in a different world than my own. Taylor Swift exists in a sea of wristband lights and gold awards, their shininess dimmed only by the filter of a Polaroid. Katy Perry lives on top of cotton-candy clouds wearing bubblegum-colored wigs, eternally running through the sprinklers and sparklers of a summer night.

I see pop stars’ lives through a series of snapshots. A tweet about their most recent show. An interview. A performance at the VMAs. They seem to float above me,  their lives spooling past me like a fairytale. They’re beautiful and confident, and their worlds never mix with mine. They drive through shining cities in limousines, they put on their prettiest high heels and walk smiling into a crowd of photographers, they dance onstage in sparkly outfits before getting back into the limo to their hotel for the night. They are separate from me; their lives are separate from my own.

That’s why the video for Selena Gomez’s “Same Old Love” was so shocking to me the first time I watched it. In this video, Selena doesn’t play a character, and she doesn’t really even perform the song until the very end. No, in this video, it’s not Selena the Pop Star, but rather Selena the person whose job is to be a pop star. She’s in a limo wearing a silky black dress with perfectly blown-out hair, sure, but she’s looking out the window. She’s focused outward. She watches a mother and son leaving, finally leaving; she watches a young girl feed her fish, a guy shouting along to the radio in his car, a couple making out in front of the liquor store. She looks on in concern at a man sitting sadly on his fire escape, and she keeps thinking about all of them as she makes her way through a twisting, churning dancefloor, as she passes another couple with a small smile on her lips. She keeps thinking about all of them as she runs to the stage to perform under the bright lights and until those lights come up on her, that’s what’s in her mind. Them. She lives in our world. My world. Those people and their world (my world) are a part of her as she flips her hair around and puts her diamond-studded hand on her hip. There hasn’t been an interview, “intimate” magazine profile, or “Stars: They’re Just Like Us!” segment that has been able to shake me of the romanticism I view celebrities with as much as this collection of images.

Here, then, in the space between a pop star and a person like me, that’s where the actual song comes in. “Same Old Love,” a song about changing the status quo because you just don’t believe in it anymore, because it hurts you too much. I’m so sick of that same old love/ That shit it tears me up/ I’m so sick of that same old love/ My body’s had enough. I can’t help but listen to these words and think of myself as an eleven-year-old girl, watching Taylor Swift videos and crying because I could never be as talented or beautiful. So sick of that same old love/ Feels like I’ve blown apart. Or when I was thirteen, trying to act all quiet and mysterious after watching Skins because I wanted to be aloof and cold and gorgeous like Effy. That same old love/ The kind that breaks your heart. Or, for that matter, when I was twelve and watched the “Who Says” video for the first time, devastated that I couldn’t look nearly as pretty without makeup on as Selena Gomez did. I’m so sick of that same old love/ my body’s had enough.

It doesn’t have to be a comparison. It doesn’t have to be that same old love, the one that comes with an ache and something to measure yourself against. With this four-minute clip, Selena Gomez has convinced me that she and everyone else in her business are not superior to me. Not even that different from me, really. I may be sitting here in a sweatshirt and jeans, and she may be on a stage in a flowing gown and diamond earrings, but she doesn’t float above me in her own parallel universe anymore. Underneath it all we’re both just girls looking out a window, wanting something more.


Asif Becher is a 16 year old recently discovered cat lady who lives in the desert. She is often asked to “chill” about Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Taylor Swift, a suggestion she finds absolutely ridiculous. You can find her on Twitter and on tumblr.

I Kinda Miss Them: Alessia Cara’s “Four Pink Walls”

[Editor’s note: This should have gone up on Friday, and I apologize to Asif and to all u witches that it didn’t. I am dropping the ball really hard this month and I’m not gonna make excuses but I am gonna do better. -A]

I’m kind of obsessed with teenage bedrooms. There’s something so singular and strange about this weird, deeply personal space that I think has no equal in terms of vulnerability. It’s the one place that’s truly yours (mine) as a teenager, and it tends to be an axis around which the rest of your (my) world spirals. I always feel like I’ve been given a special secret when a friend invites me to their room, because it seems to be their way of inviting me into their world, allowing me to see the books on their nightstand and the quotes on the walls and the to do lists scribbled on the mirrors.

Because of all this (and because my family has moved houses a lot), I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time decorating my bedroom, arranging knickknacks in just the right order and stringing up the twinkle lights in exactly the right place along the ceiling. I do this because I like to nest, but mostly because to be surrounded by all my favorite words and paintings and colors sort of feels like a warm hug from the things I love.

My room, to me, has been a place of getting lost in fictional worlds and sitting on the floor cross-legged with my friends making fun of Moulin Rouge and jumping around while ugly crying to Long Live. I’ve always seen a kind of magic in that. It’s never really mattered how bad my day at school or how dumb that thing I said was, because I’ve found sanctuary and comfort in this place that I can escape into.

On the surface, it seems like Alessia Cara feels entirely the opposite about her own room. “Four Pink Walls” is a song about wishing for something more, yearning for a life outside her little room and boring suburban neighborhood. See I prayed every night for a change to be made/ And I’d wait to be saved. But later on in the song, she sings I assumed there was only room for my dreams in my dreams/ So I’d sleep and repeat til the moon came home/ And I didn’t know where it would take me/ But I was so in love with it. You see, the song isn’t just about dreaming big, it’s about loving to dream of dreaming big. You’re comforted, among all the boredom and angst and homework, in the knowledge that you can wonder and imagine. Sometimes imagining the future hurts in that achy way nostalgia hits. But I’d argue that it’s the act of imagination that makes being a teenager a little bit magic, in that horrible way it can be at tiny moments.

Throughout the song, Alessia wonders how to reconcile a strange, biting wistfulness for her childhood with her excitement over her rising success as a new artist, which isn’t a problem I can necessarily identify with, but the feeling behind it is familiar for sure. I wondered why things weren’t different/ Everything shifted overnight/ Went from “when boredom strikes” to “Ms. Star on the Rise”/ It was all in an instant man/ But those four pink walls, now I kinda miss them man. She misses the comfort, the sanctuary, the magic of sitting in your room and just dreaming about things. All the ways a teenage girl can become while lying on the floor and staring at the ceiling. I can’t ever be afraid.

This year is my last of high school, my last to be transfixed by the act of dreaming about things from the sanctuary of my room. I’m sure that someday I’ll identify with Then the universe aligned with what I wanted all this time/ I knew there was a life beyond those four pink walls. I’m sure I’ll someday laugh about the way I hid in my twinkle-lit, overly cluttered room when I was 16. See I knew I was destined for bigger and better/ But I never said a thing, she sings. Right now, though, I seem to be the girl who kind of misses it, who’s kind of scared to leave. But I can’t ever be afraid.

Asif Becher is a 16 year old recently discovered cat lady who lives in the desert. She is often asked to “chill” about Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Taylor Swift, a suggestion she finds absolutely ridiculous. You can find her on Twitter and on tumblr.

On Being Lonely and Being Here: “Goner” by Twenty One Pilots

*If this is your first time hearing this song, please do not read the review before you’ve listened all the way through!*

I first heard “Goner” this past July, in a car full of friends. I had never heard Twenty One Pilots’ music, but most of my friends were big fans. One of them played this song as we drove down a quiet dusty street as the sun set. When the opening piano keys began, all the other girls in the car groaned that they were not emotionally prepared to handle this song at that moment. As it turned out, neither was I, because, you see, “Goner” is a punch in the gut.

Everything about it, from the soft piano to the creeping drums to the vocals (oh those vocals), is raw, dripping with visceral emotion. The song opens with a declaration of absence: I’m a goner/ Somebody catch my breath. I’m not here, I’m a wisp of a person, so weak that I need someone else to breathe for me. All of this sung in a whisper, each line punctuated by a little gasp at the end. I’m a goner, but I want to be known by you, because the line between absence and presence is blurry, isn’t it? You want to be a goner, but you also want to be cared for.

As absence increases throughout the song (I’ll slip away into the sound), the desire for presence rises and rises. I need your help to take him out, he sings right before the instruments kick in as the song crescendos. But then, just as you think the song is coming for a sweeping moment of triumph in the style of Dear John, everything cuts out.  Don’t let me be gone, he whispers. Don’t let me be gone. Don’t let me be gone.

And then it happens. All of that loneliness and isolation comes pouring out in those screams, in the heavy hits of the drums and piano. This is the crying fit that lasts hours, this is the shouting out loud, this is the release. There’s no indecision here, not anymore. The line between absence and presence has been torn away, because you’re not asking for a hug anymore. This is the desperate cry for help. There is no triumph here, only screams because age and loneliness go hand in hand, and what I’m trying to say is that the 3 minutes of “Goner” make me cry as almost  much as these three minutes do.

I could go on and on about the production of “Goner” and could write pages on each shakily sung word, but the truth is that to dissect the song like that would do a disservice to its purity. “Goner” is loneliness distilled in music and lyrics, and it isn’t particularly important to me why it kills me, only that it does. There’s just something about it that breaks my heart in that way that only the simplest songs can.

I wish I could be more eloquent about it, but the fact is that sometimes, emotion is impossible to describe. All I can tell you is that I wish I could hear this song for the first time again. We’re so lucky to have it.

Asif Becher is a recently discovered cat lady and high schooler living in the desert. She is often asked to “chill” about Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Taylor Swift, a suggestion she finds absolutely ridiculous. You can find her on Twitter and on tumblr.