I don't mean to blog so much about new music releases, but it's hard not to when we're finally out of the vulnerable phase of the 15-year excitement cycle and its sleepy-weepy mood.
As the restless warm-up phase continues, people are more inclined to come out of their shells and reconnect with others. That includes reconnecting with the one that almost got away, as I detailed in an earlier post about reconciliation anthems that define the restless phase (e.g., "Nothing Compares 2 U" or the new "Driver's License").
Except those are more confessional, heart-on-their-sleeve pleas to reconcile a relationship that had gone sour. What if it didn't crash and burn, but the two just drifted apart? There's no wound to heal, just a lightbulb moment of awareness -- "y'know, we really should get back together," and then feeling in an upbeat mood once again.
"I mean jeez, what were we thinking being apart?" -- it's more of an informal, low-key, friendly vibe, because the two of you never became enemies first. You feel reassured and secure after resuming something that had been suspended. It's a much less melodramatic tone than if your relationship had gone sour, you were going insane apart from them, and now you have to fight like hell to win them back. Much more of a groovy mood.
That's the variation on the theme in the free-spirited bop "Girlfriend" by Rebecca Black (yes, from the fad hit "Friday" from 2011, all grown up):
Celebrating about "I'm getting back with my girlfriend" is such a lesbian theme, because they stay friends with their exes and flirt with reconnecting every now and again. As opposed to the (high-body-count) girls and gays, who can't even remember half the people they've been with, let alone care to reconnect. The long-term pair-bonding drive is more of a lads-and-lesbians thing.
But despite the lyrics being from the lads and lesbians, the music itself is infectiously bouncy and danceable, suiting it more to the girls-and-gays crowd, who prefer dance clubs over skate parks for hanging out. The song as a whole is an interesting mix of both ends of the homo spectrum.
The main instruments are synths, appealing to girls-and-gays, but it's not just to provide dance-y hooks -- it goes into a very long solo, appealing to normie straight guys, unlike most electronic dance music. And her vocal delivery is joyful and upbeat, avoiding the melodramatic or abject styles that appeal to girls and gays (in a torch song context). The obvious comparison is to early Katy Perry, but it's also somewhat like Taylor Swift's peak era, which combined lesbian lyrics (from herself) and gay dance music (from her gay collaborator Jack Antonoff).
The music video also captures both ends of the spectrum, with her playing an on-stage diva / showgirl role in one part, and an outdoorsy picnic-haver with a bashful gf in the other part.
(It's nice to see her high-relief Mediterranean features fully developed now -- it gives her a more striking persona.)
I interpret these all to mean that she's bisexual, not lesbian. As fast-living types, bisexual girls are clearly on the girls-and-gays side, not the slow-living lads-and-lesbians side. But clearly some lesbians had a role in inspiring or creating this song, because it does act like a bridge between the two sides (an assertive bisexual girl singing about getting back with her bashful lesbian gf). I haven't heard many songs in this hybrid style, and it does not fall flat for not picking a clear side stylistically. I listened to it at least 10 times in a row at first, it's so catchy and bouncy.
Finally, it's worth noting that she's a late '90s birth, born into a manic phase of the excitement cycle, and imprinted on another manic phase (the early 2010s) during her second birth of adolescence when she turned 15. That makes her a candidate for being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, which her appearance is clearly aimed at achieving. But her role in the song is not a MPDG, which is an earthly guardian angel who coaxes love-weary people out of their shells, enabling them to accomplish their full potential in love and life. She could pull it off in a different song, though.
People born in a manic phase imprint on a zeitgeist of invincibility and resilience, making them naturals at coaching others to pick themselves up after failing, not to doubt themselves, and so on and so forth.
An earlier post showed that lesbians are not MPDGs, although bisexuals might be. Lesbians are too reserved and passive to assume the initiator / lead role, which the MPDG plays to lift up the sad-sack guy who can't bother trying anymore.
Bisexual girls are much more willing and comfortable making moves, taking the lead, and so on, so they could certainly be MPDGs to love-sick lesbians (who, in their characteristically peri-menopausal state, resemble the middle-aged sad sack men of the MPDG movies). Especially if the bisexual girl were born in a manic phase, like the late '90s -- and seemingly a majority of girls born then are bi-curious at a minimum.
Anyway, lots of potential for interesting new forms that the MPDG role could take in today's restless warm-up phase, which is far more permeated by alphabet-mafia concerns than the most recent one in the late 2000s.
January 30, 2021
"Girlfriend" by Rebecca Black: Reconnecting-with-ex bop for both "girls and gays" and "lads and lesbians"
I don't mean to blog so much about new music releases, but it's hard not to when we're finally out of the vulnerable phase of the 15-year excitement cycle and its sleepy-weepy mood.
January 28, 2021
"Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap: The difficulty of choreographing to ethereal yet stirring-awake music
A previous post looked at the vestiges of this trend into the following restless warm-up phase, when people are just coming out of their slumber and beginning to get their bodies moving again. See the links there to earlier posts on dream pop's 15-year cycle in both the indie and mainstream worlds. Usually there's just one or two dream poppy songs in the warm-up phase, and they tend to have a bit more rhythm and beat, now that people's needs are different and they need to get moving around after waking up.
The examples I cited were from the year-end Billboard charts, and included "Say It Right" by Nelly Furtado for the late 2000s. But there was another song from that phase that exemplifies the pattern even better, although it did not make the year-end charts (it did make it into the top 40 of the weekly Hot 100 chart):
"Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap (2005)
This is rooted in the zeitgeist of the early 2000s vulnerable phase, which produced mainstream dream-pop songs like "Only Time" by the New Age queen Enya. Here, the a capella places all of the droning layers of harmony onto the vocal line, but it doesn't sound any less floaty and dreamy for want of instrumental droning layers.
Unlike the early 2000s, however, the zeitgeist of 2005-'09 produced a song with greater range in pitch and melodic meandering, more building up and releasing of tension within a measure and over the entire song. It's more like someone who is stirring awake, and working themselves up into heightened activity levels -- not someone who's merely floating through a dreamscape or wallowing through a heroin-like daze.
And there's a clear break in the iconic line ("Mmmm whatcha say?"), where a more insistent rhythm erupts. This makes it more danceable, just like the other dream pop vestige songs, only it's a human voice rather than a drum kit that marks the beat. Still, that adapts it better to a warm-up phase zeitgeist, when people suddenly come down with dance fever.
Out of curiosity, I wondered "has anyone danced to this song before?" It's a capella, dreamy, highly lyrical, not heavily rhythmic until the final section -- it's just what the interpretative dance crowd would be into. And indeed, there are dozens of videos on YouTube showing individuals up through large troops performing to it.
Yet most of them suffer from a choreography whose movements are overly explosive for this low-key, nuanced music. And most of the rest suffer from the opposite problem -- low-energy and languid movements, but without the tension coiling up and ultimately exploding in the final section. I'm not talking about the technical proficiency of the dancers, but the program they're given to work with by the choreographer.
Songs like "Hide and Seek" are a real test of intuition, since the stereotype of interpretative dance is being overly exaggerated, random, or inappropriate in relation to the music, which then feels like it has no relation to the body movements. Music and dance are too intertwined for that dissociation to please the audience. You can search YouTube for "dance hide and seek" to see what I mean, as there are too many to link here.
At the other end, the choreographer is too nervous of the dance coming off as a stereotypical wild-and-crazy performance that's out of touch with the music, and opts for muted, limp, and slow movements throughout.
This song requires both a languid and passive component, to show the dream-like state from which the singer is stirring awake, as well as a more energetic and assertive component, to show that she's somewhat uncomfortably stirring awake rather than continuing to slumber on in dreamy bliss. Fluid, limp, and soft -- both coiling in tension and releasing it -- then explosive, taught, and hard.
There ought to be a good deal of "floor work" -- kneeling, crouching, sitting, laying down, etc. -- to suggest the horizontal posture of sleeping, dozing off, or languishing in a daze. But also punctuated by periods of erect posture, to suggest the stirring awake process that gets you solidly on your feet and moving around with purpose.
Of the many videos I checked, this improv dance by Jasmine Wright is by far the best, as the comments attest. The only complaint that the trained dancer commenters had was "too much floor work," but again they're missing that it's necessary for this song. It's not supposed to be a display of movements that dancers and dance audiences like in general, but a reflection of the particular mood of the specific music she's dancing to.
Choreographing a group of dancers to such an intensely lyrical and personal song is a daunting task, and the only good example I found was this performance from the University of Waterloo Dance Company's Acro Group. Like the solo improv above, this one features lots of floor work to convey the languid mood, but also moments of coiled tension (naturally suited to acrobats holding a pose), with the explosive movements saved until the final section, including a perfectly timed tumble to the "Mmmm whatcha say?" line.
So far, there are only a handful of videos on TikTok using this song, but it's apparently a fave for dancers, so it could do much better, especially since there's the late 2000s revival under way.
It's a credit to Imogen Heap for making an ethereal a capella song that the most corporeal people on Earth cannot help but move their bodies to. It's not the typical disembodied, floating-and-swaying dream pop song, but one for stirring awake and finding your footing during the restless warm-up phase of the excitement cycle. It's no wonder it was heavily sampled in the R&B hit "Whatcha Say" by Jason Derulo, also from the dance-crazy late 2000s.
January 26, 2021
As shown in this TikTok trend. The theme is "low maintenance is key," and the audio says that she's simple -- all she wants is someone to squeeze her butt and tell her she's pretty. Not anything boob-related. Nope -- squeeze her butt. A lot of the women make a point of showing off their butt, sometimes squeezing it themselves for good measure.
The women run the gamut in age, sub-culture, attractiveness, etc. They're all butt girls, though.
There was also that meme from a few years ago about a low-maintenance gf -- "touch my butt and buy me pizza". Not "touch my boobs".
Butt girls, being more corporeal, are more down to earth, simple tastes, low-maintenance, easy-going, accept people for who they are rather than try to custom-order a hyper-specialized bf through tweaking the search filters on a phone app.
Cerebral boob girls, whether they admit it or not, are higher-maintenance. Definitely more neurotic. More highly specific tastes, at any rate more stubborn in their cut-offs, requirements, and "red flags" (itself a red flag for her). Looking for Mr. Perfect, however they define it -- trying to optimize or customize their search through the results of the mating market.
Score another one for the butt girls. Easy-going, accepting of limits, adapting to reality, pragmatic, feet-on-the-ground, while still having a romantic streak (not to be confused with stubbornly clinging to standards that are too high for your mating market value).
Naturally lesbians fall under the low-maintenance butt girl group. They're easier to get along with, no matter who you are, even if you're a guy friend / colleague / etc., or a Platonic straight girl friend.
But also including romantic relationships -- they're so easy-going about it that they stay friends with their exes, nowhere near the level of drama as in the "girls and gays" group.
That must've been a key factor behind Taylor Swift's low-key persona, all while she was a pretty, young, pop superstar. Her inner lesbian wanted to be a relatable girl-next-door type, not a neurotic picky diva. It wasn't just to appeal to suburban demos, flyover states, or ordinary normies. It was also the lesbian drive to be low-maintenance and laid-back.
January 23, 2021
TikTok videos of girls experiencing "gay panic" show that lesbians are bashful and coquettish when they're around someone they're attracted to -- very feminine. Another nail in the coffin of the "lesbians are masculinized" theory.
Homosexual syndrome is not about a person's sex-and-gender qualities, but about what unusual developmental stage they're in. Gays are stuck in the "ewww, girls are yucky" stage of 5 year-old boys, while lesbians are like peri-menopausal women.
That's why even the teen / early 20s lesbians on TikTok are more inhibited than their peers, when they see someone hot. The typical horny youth thing to do would be cranking up their attention-seeking behaviors, or outright pursuing the hot person. Yes, straight girls do that too at that age, not just straight guys.
Lesbians, though, go the bashful route -- fluffing their hair, making eye-contact, etc., but in a less conspicuous way, and in a less sustained way. It's not the full-on assault that a straight girl would direct toward a random hot guy.
Rather, "gay panic" -- really, lesbian panic -- looks like a spinster librarian who's just become the object of flirtation from some random hot bibliophile. Or a schoolteacher when a random hot dad flirts with her at the PTA meeting, or a buttoned-up married-with-children suburban housewife when the random hot delivery guy smiles and cracks a few jokes with her.
There's a horniness underneath, but it's muted when it reaches the surface, and the self-aware shocked expression conveys the sense that it's out of character for her to be feeling so distractedly horny. "But I'm a librarian / teacher / housewife..." Likewise, "But I'm a lesbian..." She's not supposed to feel that horned up, as a woman in a peri-menopausal state. She should be close to checking out of horniness for good.
And so, "gay panic": the initial jolt of horniness, the panic that she's not supposed to be feeling that, and then the inhibition to dial down its overt expression to make it more socially approved for a woman in a mature, rather than adolescent, stage of development -- bashful and coquettish, not wild and lusty.
Why do lesbians have to be so adorable?
January 22, 2021
Over the past month or so, I've noticed a disturbing relapse to the anti-social norms that governed public places about 10 years ago -- constant phone usage, not saying hello to strangers, and putting as much space as possible between themselves and others. Those trends had all but gone away by 2019-'20.
Hopefully this is just a temporary thing, perhaps caused by their anxiety over the instability of the national government -- when/if the dust settles, maybe they'll act more normally and less paranoid / cocooning.
Whatever the reason, they're really seizing on the coronavirus excuse to turn it into yet another tiresome status contest for aspiring or actual elites. Strivers can never stop striving.
First, it was the conspicuous wearing of masks in open-air spaces with few people around, like the walking path around a park. And not even in an otherwise densely packed neighborhood. Like, in the suburbs. Masks do nothing health-related in such a setting, but they do allow strivers to compete over something novel -- who can adopt the most paranoid mask-wearing norm? Almost no one was wearing masks around the park before a month or so ago, despite everyone complying while indoors at retail stores, etc., so this is a very new shift.
But now it's going beyond just the masks, which have a low ceiling for how far out of control the competition can spiral. Wear them indoors, in the outdoors, and maybe in your car -- and that's it, end of contest. However, "social distancing" only has a minimum, not a maximum -- you can always keep just a little bit further away from the polluting bodies clogging up the public space you've unfortunately found yourself in.
Again, this shift is very recent, within the past month. Before, two people walking towards each other on the path might not have veered at all, or at most they'd move to either border of the path. Now I'm seeing people veer all the way off the path to tread over the grass (or mud or snow). And it's become a contest, with some moving just off of the path, others moving several feet off the path, and others charting an alternate course altogether, like at a 45-degree angle, as though to escape a vortex that had suddenly opened up before them.
Naturally I do not reciprocate, and I veer as far toward them as possible while still staying on the path. They expect me to play the game and see which one of us can micro-dehumanize the other more, but homie don't play dat. I'd rather spook them if they're going to act so anti-socially in public. I should dry-cough on my way over to them, for bonus points.
A variation on this pattern is while you're walking down a sidewalk, and some other pedestrian or jogger takes a conspicuous detour to the street-level asphalt, or (less commonly) to the other side of the street. Not in a dense urban core, but in a suburban neighborhood where we're the only two people on the entire block. Get real, striver dork.
One very refreshing exception to the rule is young girls. It's primarily women in their 30s and older, or perhaps some in their late 20s who have just aged poorly and I can't tell, who are polluting the public atmosphere with their anti-social distancing behavior. And it's not just to compete over yet another aspect of daily life, but to convince themselves that they're still so desirable that the other pedestrians on the path that day are actually suitors hot on their trail.
In reality, as a random hot guy, I would be the one to veer away from them, but I'm not an anti-social striver retard, so I do not. It's always the plain ones past their prime who attempt to build up their self-esteem in this way -- imagining that attention exists, in order to reject it.
With younger girls who are still cute and at or near their prime, it's just the opposite. They're not sure whether or not I'll give them attention, so they're curious and put out their feelers. If I give them attention, they accept it gratefully -- omigosh, i'm not ugly or invisible after all, if random hot guy looked back at me!!!!
Like the older women, they too are suffering from depleted validation reserves under the lockdowns, but their response is pro-social rather than egotistical -- taking the risk of putting themselves out there in public, hoping to feel a mutual feeling with someone else.
This stark difference really hit me last night when I was walking around a park, and in the distance I saw a pack of bouncing pony-tails heading toward me. It was one of the high school girls sports teams out jogging laps. Based on young people's behavior in other places, I didn't expect them to act anti-social and veer off the path, and sure enough they kept right on track.
In fact, they were standing 3 abreast the whole time, not shrinking into a single file to put maximum distance between us. I didn't have anywhere to go toward or away from them on the path, so they all but brushed against me as they passed. As they got close, their voices started raising, and they got all smiley and giggly. I made eye-contact with as many as I could, maybe 2 or 3, but there must've been 10 of them total -- sorry I couldn't validate you all. (I sincerely mean that: I want to reward them for taking the risk, and not demotivate them.)
And of course none of them were wearing masks outdoors -- and hide their smooth, supple, glowing skin, or their lively curious expressions? Yeah right. They don't want their cuteness to go to waste.
I'm sure they're all taking part in other striver contests, but at that age it's mainly about getting into the highest-ranked college -- studying, doing extracurriculars (like sports), and so on. They're not in the same social environment as their parents, so they don't take part in the same status contests that they do. Really the only overlap is food -- teens and college kids learn how to complain about food, while their parents are leaving five-paragraph sub-par ratings on Yelp. Or taking pictures of their better-than-yours meal to upload to their Instagram feed.
It's impossible to teach small children to wash their hands, because they don't have a strong disgust sense at that point. That makes them vectors of disease. But even when they've adapted to hand-washing, it's impossible to teach teens and 20-somethings to anti-socially distance, since they have such a strong instinct to at least be near lots of other people, whether or not they're directly interacting with them. They can't stand being totally physically isolated. This nature is making them vectors of disease, with their age group showing the highest growth rates for coronavirus, and with zip codes in college campus areas showing the highest density of cases.
If your public health plan requires toddlers to regularly and thoroughly wash their hands, then the society is fucked. Likewise if it requires teens and 20-somethings to stay holed up in their room alone for years on end. Their human instincts are too strong to tame with lockdowns etc. It will have to be a top-level plan that protects those below, such as closing borders and rolling out a vaccine (if it would be effective).
So far, our parasitic and fractured elite class has largely failed to execute the only realistic solutions, so they will increasingly start to pass the blame onto those who are helpless at the bottom, and who cannot be relied upon to solve the nation's problems anyway. "Those selfish horny kids just can't keep it in their pants and skip house parties for their entire college years, and that's why their grandparents are dropping dead" -- not because the government refused to seal the borders shut during a pandemic, or roll out an effective vaccine on time.
January 20, 2021
Just a little placeholder post before more in-depth analysis of the shifting political landscape.
Because Trump's finale of the Reagan era was terminated artificially through election theft, and not through an organic realignment of the parties and voters, the current admin is an uneasy interregnum before true realignment occurs and ushers in a new era. Everyone but the most out-of-touch libtards can sense the instability during this supposed "end of our national nightmare," which everyone knows is only just beginning.
The dread and anxiety is still there, because the decapitation of Trump and the GOP has only left a power vacuum, which all sectors of society with even an ounce of life left in them are going to wage war in order to fill. That is no less true on the left half of society, who are just as fractured as they were less than a year ago, during a bitterly divisive primary.
Indeed their divisions and lack of enthusiasm were key factors in their defeat at the ballot box. Rigged elections can win the struggle for power between parties, but cannot force unity on the factions within the winning party. Now they all know that the only reason they won was the urban machine elites stuffing ballot boxes, and the intel agencies hijacking social media platforms.
So there will be no spoils doled out except to those entities -- not to the still apathetic Millennials, let alone Zoomers, not to the Bernie bros and babes, not to Independents, not to private-sector labor unions. And crucially, not to any non-white ethnic group other than those in the top of the relevant sectors -- Talented Tenth blacks in Democrat machines, Brahmins in the intel agencies and their social media appendages, but not Hispanics, nor most East Asians.
Libtard elites aside, everyone could use a little resilience music today. It's another visit from a Manic Pixie Dream Girl fave, Avril Lavigne, from the last restless warm-up phase of the excitement cycle (late 2000s). Not that it matters so much, but it's a relief to see her not wading into politics throughout the entire electoral cycle -- not during the BLM / Antifa riots, not the general election, not the inauguration, or anything else. One of the few in the entertainment sector to not have sullied her purity by politicizing her material.
Here's looking to another free-spirited nurturer born in the early '80s manic phase, Tulsi Gabbard, as we enter the downward spiral of this anarchic interregnum.
January 15, 2021
So many of the ongoing themes of this blog going on here in the new music video by Pale Waves --
Everyone recognizes the Avril Lavigne influence, but it's hard to place when. The sparse instrumentation and mellow vocal energy during the verse is like her songs from 2002-'04, but then the chorus explodes and soars, and it no longer sounds like the early 2000s at all. The tone is way too uplifting and feel-good to belong to the bummed-out early 2000s. More like "Smile" from the early 2010s, and the non-pop-punk song of hers from the late 2000s, "Keep Holding On".
The "mellow verse, intense chorus" contrast is characteristic of the restless warm-up phase of the excitement cycle, when people need to be shaken out of their slumber and forced to get moving. During the early 2000s, it was a refractory phase, and most people wanted to grumpily lay in bed under a protective pile of blankets after the alarm clock had gone off. So it's more like a song from the late 2000s or the early '90s. Something between "I Touch Myself" by Divinyls and "Head Over Feet" by Alanis Morissette.
I immediately thought the lads-and-lesbians crowd would love this one (not so much the girls-and-gays crowd, who likely find it sappy and corny). Sure enough, the singer is a lesbian. They love singing about love, and bonding to just one person, much like their lad counterparts who have a low body count, sensitive nature, and preference for cozy intimacy rather than abject copulation. The cozy groypers from Twitter, and the cottagecore girls from Tumblr and TikTok.
tfw no wholesome goth lesbian bff
But that crowd is painfully awkward at the flirtation and mating-dance-ritual stage of interaction, so their music is not very dance-driven or club-located. One of the funniest things that lesbian TikTok showcases is their inability to take the physical initiative even when they're literally face-to-face. Their foreheads are touching, they're putting on their best seductive eye-narrowing gaze, and yet neither one can bring herself to give the other the slightest peck on the cheek. Lesbian bed death, before they're even in bed. Not because they're avoidant, though -- they love cuddling and all that other intimate stuff. It's adorkable.
The setting for the music video is straight out of cottagecore Tumblr or cozy groyper Twitter as well. In contrast to gays, lesbian aesthetics are consciously anti-metropolitan -- like gays, they live in a densely packed urban shithole, but unlike gays, they pine for a return -- or at least a regular respite -- to a pastoral, idyllic environment. This is true for the music videos of the other singles from their upcoming album Who Am I? ("Change" and "She's My Religion").
After all, intimacy and pair-bonding is not possible in faceless urban cores, while anonymous promiscuity is. And so, cities are magnets for gays and high-body-count girls, but lesbians only converge there reluctantly to find each other, and would rather retreat to a charming small town once they found a gf or wife.
One final impression: the Pale Waves singer was born in the manic phase of the second half of the '90s, a cohort who are starting to stand out more in pop culture (especially as Twitch streamers). Not really the chaotic wild-child type born in the restless phase of the early '90s, and not the sad-girl type born in the vulnerable phase of the early 2000s -- they're more happy-go-lucky, emotionally resilient, and socially autonomous / healthy attachment style (preferring company, but neither clingy like the restless phase births, nor avoidant like the vulnerable phase births). They remind me of my fellow early '80s births (including Avril herself), who were born during a manic phase.
However, they're likely going to grow to resemble those born during another manic phase -- the late '60s births, who turned 25 in the early '90s, which the current zeitgeist is going to resemble more than the late 2000s or the late '70s (all restless warm-up phases). This is because a full cycle alternates between a high-energy and a low-energy state, and the 2005-2019 cycle was high-energy, so the cycle that's just begun in 2020 (and lasting through 2034) will be a more chill and laid-back cycle overall, just like the 1990-2004 cycle.
But the late '90s girls are a topic for another post.
January 11, 2021
"Driver's License" by Olivia Rodrigo: The confessional reconciliation anthem signaling end of refractory phase of excitement cycle
At the end of 2019 I explored a type of song that appears at the transition between the refractory phase of the 15-year excitement cycle, and the restless warm-up phase that follows. It's part of the broader zeitgeist of the end of "don't approach me" hyper-sensitivity, and coming out of your shell to reconnect with others, especially the opposite sex.
The lyrics are confessional in tone, reflecting on a past relationship that went bad. But unlike a typical torch song, where the singer is mainly mourning their loss in solitude, here they're making a bold direct address to their former lover, proposing to reconcile and to renew their relationship.
The music is mostly dream-pop -- layers of droning and sighing voices, whether human or instrumental -- which prevails during the previous refractory phase, when people are only in the mood to float through an ethereal expanse by themselves. Now that the mood has changed, and people are getting restless, there's a greater desire for melodic hooks and a driving beat, in contrast to the focus on harmony and a languid beat during the vulnerable phase.
Also like the other examples, the key is major, rather than the minor-key tonality that prevails during the preceding vulnerable phase, suggesting a turn toward the hopeful now that people are no longer in a refractory state.
Read that post for a fuller analysis, and for links to earlier discussion of dream pop's role throughout the excitement cycle.
The major examples are "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt and "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis from the late 2000s, "Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Connor and "One More Try" by Timmy T from the early '90s, "Misty Blue" by Dorothy Moore and "Dream Weaver" by Gary Wright from the late '70s, and "I'm Sorry" and "Break It To Me Gently" both by Brenda Lee from the early '60s.
I predicted this type of song would see a new example in the early 2020s, as this phase transition takes place again. They aren't very numerous, but they're so recognizable and distinctive of their era, that they don't have to have dozens of examples. You'll identify it immediately upon hearing it.
Sure enough, the other day YouTube recommended me a trending music video for "Driver's License" by Olivia Rodrigo, and I instantly knew this was the one for the current restless phase. It's rapidly taking over streaming platforms globally, so like the other examples from similar phases, it will be one of the defining songs of the early 2020s.
Overall it's most similar to "Nothing Compares 2 U," although closer to "You're Beautiful" and "Bleeding Love" in minute stylistic details, due to those two coming from a more recent restless phase.
Lyrically, it's different from a torch song in directly addressing her former lover, proposing to reconcile not only their past troubles, but also to move beyond the fact that he's found someone new in the meantime. She's making an offer to revive their relationship, not just whine and mope alone about her heartbreak, the rejection, etc., which belong in the past.
Musically, it's defined by layers of droning and sighing voices, both instrumental and human, and an overall feel of floating through emptiness, as in a dream. And yet unlike a typical dream pop song, the vocal delivery is neither languid nor hyper-sensitive / distancing. It's earnest, bold, soulful, and sending itself off on a melodic rollercoaster during the chorus.
The beat is also not the typical plodding rhythm of vulnerable-phase dream pop -- it starts with no percussion, then introduces a skipping-rhythm clickity-clack, adds a persistent marching-step or running-rhythm bass drum during the second verse, and a backbeat during the second chorus. That development is more like stirring awake from a dream and getting your body moving at the start of your day, not continuing to sleep or lie in bed under a pile of blankets in a heroin-like daze.
The vocal takes on a percussive role as well during the peak line of the chorus -- "I guess you didn't mean what you wrote in that song about me" -- where you can feel the force on each of the stressed syllables. There are two unstressed syllables before the stressed ones, giving it a galloping rhythm and adding to the impression of not sleeping or laying around, but single-mindedly advancing toward a target to confront them.
The bridge is the most purely dream-pop section, and by itself sounds like it could have come from the late 2010s. That has the effect of making their past feel more dream-like, mellow, and ideal, in contrast to the somewhat painful awkwardness of stirring awake and trying to reconcile and restart their relationship in the present, which characterizes the other sections of the song.
After the hazy dreamy bridge, you may be yearning for a dramatic pay-off, both to complete the rising physical tension developed throughout the song, but also to satisfy the lyrical theme -- resting assured that their reconciliation and renewal is going to be a smashing success. But that's not where they, or we, are at right now in the 15-year excitement cycle. The singer is just stirring awake, and making a bold proposal seemingly out of nowhere. It will take a little while for the other side to process what's going on, and for both of them to figure out the way forward.
So the resolution has to be a low-key subsiding of tension -- the pause after a bold proposal as one side awaits the other's response, not the dissipation of that tension altogether. The fact that it's only a pause means there is still unresolved tension, and it leaves us yearning -- but that's precisely how this process feels, before the other side has had time to think it over and respond. It's not like a cliffhanger ending in a TV series that is never followed up on, so we don't feel upset at the less than 100% resolution. We recognize that that's just how this process goes, and we'll have to wait somewhat anxiously to see how the other side responds.
This is an instant "lads and lesbians" classic, to touch on another recent theme around here. Definitely not for "girls and gays". Not only pining for an ex, but actually contacting them to revive the relationship because you two were meant to be together. I have no clue whether Olivia Rodrigo is a literal lesbian, or one of the straight girls who fits in with the L&L crowd. Heavy channeling of Taylor Swift hints that she's not just a spiritual lesbian, though.
At any rate, glad to know that we've reached another milestone in the transition out of the #MeToo refractory phase, and into the restless warm-up phase. Like the other examples from the past, I doubt this will go down as one of the best songs of its time, but its role is more than aesthetic -- spurring forward the nascent process of coming out of your shell, after holing up during five years of hyper-sensitivity.
January 1, 2021
Oh, just reflecting on the passage of time while moderately buzzed on New Year's Day, and of online culture in particular (where increasingly more of our "interactions" take place, sadly). Remembered the craze of "fuck yeah Tumblrs" circa 2009-2010, before they invented hashtags, and each theme had its own Tumblr account.
In effect, the character string "fuckyeah" served as the tag-marker before the theme's name -- no different from the # symbol, just a bit longer and more earnest and over-the-top and quirky, like everything else of that time.
See the WaPo's early retrospective on the phenomenon, from 2015.
We're going through a late 2000s revival now, so why not take this up again? It's worth reviving for nostalgia value itself, but also to archive things that have been otherwise erased from the public record since the 2010 heyday. And also to celebrate things that were not the object of celebration back then -- like online culture.
In 2010, the "fuck yeah" topics were all offline (pizza, the Glee TV show, etc.). With so much culture creation and consumption taking place online, there's a need for a whole new class of fan-based micro-blogs.
fuckyeahheatherhabsburg.tumblr.com -- how is this not taken? We could also ask that about the woman herself. :)
It's harder to preserve online culture, compared to other media, because so much now is on platforms whose accounts can be privated, deactivated, or suspended, and their whole history just vanishes in a puff of digital smoke.
You'd have to rely on second-hand copies of the long-lost original...
Don't make us do it, Heather and Alison, just reincarnate as a blog and your posting career can be public without getting piled on by toxic retards (simply moderate your comment section).