By: Nimue Wafiya and Yumitra Kannan
Pull any track from the top 40s and it’s bound to be a bop about a cishet couple: “I love it when you call me senorita”. It’s always somewhere along the lines of a breakup, a period of yearning, deep, deep love or are just straight up about the physicalities.
So I present to you, a curated and extremely varied list of songs, some by our very own local artists and some by artists you’ve probably never heard of. Either way, they all point towards the same motif: independence!
- Number One Fan – MUNA
At first listen you might think this is totally a top 40s song. But the lyrics are what differentiates this bop from the synth-filled counterparts we’re used to. The track begins with lead singer Katie Gavin’s robotic, nonchalant vocals over a pulsating beat ⎼ think Poker Face by Lady Gaga. This song starts off with a hook anyone wouldn’t able to ignore: “So I heard the bad news: nobody likes me and I’m gonna die alone, in my bedroom”. According to the all-girl band, it was a no-brainer to make this the first track and first lyric in their album.
Being angsty is commonplace these days, the lyrics are hardly as effusive and witty as the tweets we’re used to seeing (if you know, you know), so, to blatantly throw that onto a catchy pop track and actually make it sound fresh? That’s a craft few can master.
This song falls under a genre known as dark pop, the badass twin sister of generic pop. It’s quite loosely, the most descriptive oxymoron out there. It’s something that undoubtedly satisfies the brute cynic and absolute princess inside all of us.
Hold on! The track isn’t a despondent one. Remember, we’re looking at songs that promote independence.
For only a little while longer, the first verse continues with it’s self-destructive narration when, right at the 0:15 timestamp, the slide of a bass string ushers in a catchy, muted 80s techno riff ⎼ this is where the actual message of the song starts to unveil itself. The pre-chorus arrives with the lead singer describing a deep yearning to not lose themselves only to be followed by a chorus all about being a fan of yourself ⎼ talk about a character arc. The chorus treats it’s listener with a groovier melody that complements the point the song is trying to get across: be your own number one fan!
I highly recommend giving this song a chance on a pair of really good earphones. Try to catch that dial tone at 0:15 when Gavin mentions the word ‘telephone’!
2. Apna Time Aayega – Gully Boy
Indian rap is quite underrated and has only recently caught the attention of the mainstream audience and this is the perfect track for you to get acquainted with this specific genre. The title ‘Apna Time Aayega’ directly translates to “Our Time Will Come” and the song talks about dreams, goals, struggles, failures, obstacles, reality of life and the fight to achieve success. From the movie Gully Boy, the song is written and sung in Hindi but when has music ever been stopped by the barrier of languages. The beat, rhythm and emotions that go into the song will get you shaking your legs and bobbing your head in no time; not forgetting the urge it sends up your spine to get stuff done in life.
The gist of the song talks about all the hard work and dedication one needs to put in to reach their dreams and that it may take time but you’ll definitely get there and I believe that this is a very underrated concept in a world of instant gratification and will be a timely reminder for all of us who are frustrated with our ‘progress’. Independence to a large extent is what we make of it.
3. Out of Time Man – Mick Harvey
This song is a jaunty one, a catchy hybrid of indie and country. It was made for the well-acclaimed TV series Breaking Bad, adding ambience to a scene that focuses on the main character, Walter White.
The song is about the tedious 9-5 the average adult must experience, and how in the end, a relationship with this lifestyle may not be sustainable because of it. But that sad twist isn’t my main takeaway from the song. The first large chunk of this tune is about accepting the work life, elaborated on using a tone that is somewhere between neutral and happy. The singer speaks about the hours that pass in a day, literally, and while the lyrics portray a cynically sad man, it is sung like a jolly carol, giving it that Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People appeal. As a student, the prospect of working 40 hours a week to earn a living can sound like a daunting, colorless area in the far, far future. But hearing this song just makes it an easier pill to swallow.
Yes, I will have to independently sustain myself some day, no more being baby-ed, but is that so bad?
The twist at the end works like a Shakespearean sonnet, when the character in the song explains that after all that hustle and routine, what is arguably a fundamental hedonistic need of ours cannot be met: maintaining a relationship. While anyone could pick up on that and feel disheartened, I personally find the larger portion of the song to be motivational if anything. Sure, life can get boring when we clock in our hours, but sing about it in the cheery, sarcastic way Mick Harvey does and you might just find yourself skipping into your workplace, feeling maybe a little bit grateful for the structure it gives you.
4. I Forgot That You Existed – Taylor Swift
This one comes from Taylor Swift’s latest album and as the title suggests, is all about forgetting someone who probably isn’t worth remembering and detaching yourself from them completely. It’s a harsh message wrapped in generic pop elements but, as usual, Taylor manages to add personality to it. She specifically plays with the lyrics in the chorus, something you should definitely discover with your own ears!
It’s a short, feel-good bop. It’s less than 3 minutes and long and manages to portray the feathery light feeling of being alone. It’s quite simply described in her lyrics: And it was so nice, so peaceful and quiet.
5. Arvind Raj – Melayu Cina India feat. Pele L. & Touche x Music Kitchen | PLSTC.CO – 2019
Last but not least, what speaks more about independence than a song about Malaysia which is written in three different languages and is sung by young local artists (from three different races) who are redefining and boosting the Malaysian arts scene? Arvind Raj’s ‘Melayu Cina India’ is a shout out to all young Malaysians to forget about racial differences and join together to create history. As cliché as it may sound on the surface, the song’s setting, the hyped beat, the simplicity of words and its references like the one made to May 13 all packs quite a punch when you pay attention. Our favourite thing about this track is that it breathes life into what young Malaysian today stand – in the words of Arvind Raj that is – ‘Memang tak kisah pasal perkauman’ and ‘kita cerita pembangunan’.
With that we leave you, hoping you’re all pumped to take on the world! See you soon with new fresh content!