I have not been spending enough time on my blog lately, and it’s time for that to change with “Today’s Lesson:” a weekly blog segment in which I review a song or an album that I’ve recently been listening to and find myself interested in. Unlike a traditional review, I won’t be assigning scores or anything. Instead, I focus on writing about music that I think is worth writing about. In some tacit sense, you can assume that these are all recommendations. However, the real purpose of this segment is to use a song as a stepping off point to talk about whatever else is on my mind. We’re too quick to separate music out from other things in life, and this is my own small way of questioning the merit of doing that.
Just bask in the glory of this unabashedly 80s pop single by An Luu, a French actress. I don’t know how or why Spotify recommended this track to me, but I sure am grateful they did. I love it. There is absolutely no pretense, posturing, or even showing off. The song sets up a basic, spartan groove as An’s breathy voice floats over top. There is a certain innocence to the vocal delivery, too. A vulnerability. I’ve listened to the song maybe dozens of times over the past week or so. I’m utterly fascinated by it, partially because I challenged myself to understand the song without looking up a translation of the lyrics.
In writing this post, though, I decided to lift that curtain and track down a translation of the lyrics. Despite being molested by Google Translate, the song’s lyrics are immediately understandable: she’s asking a lover why he stopped beating her – maybe he doesn’t love her anymore? That’s heavy stuff, to put it mildly. The scenes are immediately evocative of Lou Reed’s Berlin concept album: domestic, bluntly laying out the cruelty, and also confronting the hard-to-understand inner workings of the abused that stay in the relationship. Though it might just be coincidence, the lover in An’s song is referred to as LouLou…
I won’t lie, I’m kind of bowled over right now. And this is the kind of musical experience I really cherish: drawn into a complicated beauty of a song. Listen to it. It’s just pretty. But it’s simultaneously so baldly ugly too. This is something special because it gives us a slice of life. A bad slice, but a slice none-the-less. Music can contain truths that are lost in mere words and, though disgusting as they may be, we mustn’t run from this. This is us, this is who we are. This is reality.
In our social media, we often find ourselves framing ourselves in a certain light, highlighting the good and erasing the bad. Hiding it away, and only putting your best self forward. But it’s a lie, isn’t it? And even when someone tries to show a more complete picture, we look down our noses at them for sharing drama or just being too sad. Something media scholars study at length is this phenomenon of how we present ourselves and how we act when (we think) someone is watching: we change. We pretend to be something else. An Luu strips away all of that with this song, and it’s arresting in its beauty.