Habits (Stay High) – Tove Lo

This track by Swedish singer Tove Lo drifted to me sometime in late 2014, through the radio waves. I instantly liked it because of the musical contrast that forms its core. While the words speak of a dark phase in a young woman’s life as she grapples with coming to terms with being dumped, the pleasant and catchy music diminishes and lightens the severity of her reaction and her pain.

The confessional first person lyrics are flanked by vivid, bold descriptions of her self destructive way of life with references to junk food, meaningless affairs and alcoholism; things you don’t normally hear about in mainstream pop. ‘Staying high’ is the only way she can escape the reality. The electronic music perfectly compliments the despair without taking away from it. It has a lingering presence that extends the vivid descriptions. However, the burden of unexpected loneliness, the extremities that she subjects herself to, her defeatist coping strategy, are all expressed by Tove Lo’s vocals in a rather impassive & cold manner which makes me think that there might be more to it than meets the ears.

I feel that beyond the outspoken & unapologetic vulnerability, this song is also a message, a pleading of sorts. It’s as if she’s making her former lover feel guilty for the disaster that has hit her. It’s remarkable that she is aware of how completely incapable and uninterested she is in dealing with it (staying in my play pretend). The underlying call is: “How can you watch me destroy myself, please come back and make all this, that I am subjecting myself to, go away. I’ll stop if you come back.”

This song makes rock bottom sounds like a party at first, before one peels away to the numbness behind it all.

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Take Care – Drake feat. Rihanna

One of my favorite pop duets, this track found its way to my life  through a borrowed iPod while on bus ride in Himachal, about 6 years ago.

Spinning modern sounds & modern vulnerabilities on a part of Gil Scott-Heron’s original, Drake & Rihanna keep things simple. Two tired souls, worn out by heartbreak but not so damaged that they have given up on love. I like the spirt of this track, there’s honesty, reassurance and then there’s a promise. It’s two close friends urging each other to not let the past stop them from taking another chance as there’s nothing to be ashamed of. There’s comfort in knowing that it is all human and it’s all right to not get it right.

Rihanna’s vocals, while limited only to the hook, still speak volumes of love lost and love to be found. Drake’s larger share of lines are so real and human, he makes vulnerability sound so endearing, and almost cool. The contrast between their voices and style is delightful, with pleasant music working only to support and lift their voices. The synth sounds hold the space while the guitars shoot around with balanced beats adding life to the whole affair.

Makes me think of Netflix’s British Romcom Lovesick. This is what Evie and Dylan would say to each other if they could. 🙂

Too Close – Alex Clare

This track came into my life in 2011, possibly through Vh1 or some radio channel in Delhi. The song is a declaration of the end of a friendship and feels like a letter that Alex Clare is singing to his best friend who has developed romantic feelings for him, that he cannot reciprocate. It’s really a lose-lose situation. The irreversibility of falling in love has destroyed the friendship as they knew it, so what must be saved then?

The writing evokes empathy for the protagonist, who is both sorry for his choice in the matter and also somewhat relieved to have finally made it. I like how the vulnerability is expressed with hints of exasperation and despair at the situation. He is doing this for self preservation, after much trying & suffering; pretending loving back, hiding from the friend and then realizing that the only way to get unstuck from this situation is to walk away.

The music starts light, with the synth leading the way followed by the guitar, almost mysterious signifying the hard decision that’s about to be revealed. The sound transitions into a slow yet catchy beat as Alex Clare vocalizes the tension that one might feel while making such a brutally honest confession to a close friend. It is really the chorus that completely surprises with its heaviness and dubstep edge. Without any warning, the wobbly bass appears out of nowhere and takes an otherwise simple song into a whole new complex space.

This song somehow reminds me of rock climber Aron Ralston’s tragic yet liberating choice, on which the movie 127 hours is based. Sometimes one can choose to lose something valuable to become unstuck and save something even more precious.

Giorgio by Moroder – Daft Punk

This song changed my life and hence deserves to be the first post of my ‘Song a Day’ project. Giorgio in his speech in the song say something so meaningful, so profound that it made me break the self imposed shackles that were limiting my expression and emerge a happier, more contented and definitely a lot more expressive individual than I was before I even heard this. Huge thanks to DP for bringing GM to me. Also,  the credit of introducing me to this goes to my super awesome husband who is not only a huge Daft Punk fan but also my role model in many ways. So yay for that!

“Once you free your mind about a concept of

Harmony and music being correct

You can do whatever you want

So, nobody told me what to do

And there was no preconception of what to do”

The song has amazing beats and brilliant electronic sounds that pick up after he says the epic words (above). I use the high energy of this song when I need to focus and tell myself how easy it all is if we let it. Hope you like it!