Friday, January 8, 2016

Song of the Week: "Here" - Alessia Cara

Fair warning: if you find my musings on music occasionally pretentious (which I admit they probably are, although I think any kind of discussion of culture carries that risk), you're going to want to skip this one.  This one's a deep dive into my over-analysis.

I was first drawn to Allesia Cara's "Here" by the mellow melody.  The languid R&B beat, the vocal melody, and the smattering of piano make it an easy listen.

And then I started paying attention to the lyrics, as I inevitably do.  The story is one of a girl who's at a party she regrets going to.  That's a story I think most people can relate to.  I certainly can.  You go somewhere because your friends dragged you, or because you felt like you should, and you're determined to not have fun, so you don't.  Maybe the party is lame, maybe you're too sober, maybe all kinds of things, but it's easy to relate to.  

But then, on about the 12th listen, I started wondering if the protagonist of the song is actually sympathetic.  The second verse in particular is pretty disdainful of the party-goers and carries an undercurrent of "No, don't mind me, enjoy your stupid party, I'll just be smoldering in the corner while you act like assholes."  The girl who got dragged to the party kind of seems like a killjoy, and actually refers to herself as an "antisocial pessimist".  If the song captures the feeling of being at a party you don't want to be at, it also does a good job of making the singer seem like someone the rest of the party wouldn't want there anyway.    

Whether it was intentional or not, succinctly capturing the exact feeling of a time and place is hard, and "Here" does that masterfully.  That it does so in a way that also leaves doubt about how reliably we're supposed to take the narrator is even more impressive.  If I were to stretch the comparison, I think you could even make the case this is Catcher in the Rye-esque, a story where the protagonist presents a narrative so obviously flawed that we realize the narrative is less about the story than the one telling it.     

I've been hearing this one on the radio for months now, and I've gone through three distinct periods with it.  So even if I can't decide whether the song's subject is sympathetic or just kind of antisocial and no fun, it's still had me thinking about it at length, which is not something that happens with most of what I hear on the radio.  

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