Op-Ed: We need boygenius now more than ever
I never seem to remember the worst days of my life. There’s always been a tendency to suppress anything that hurts, leaving little blackouts in my memory; the gaps, however, are usually filled in with songs.
When I endured my first real heartbreak, the Earth-shattering, shrapnel-scattering kind, Julien Baker’s “Sour Breath” was the soundtrack to my melodramatic, bleary-eyed 2 a.m. drives to nowhere. In those dark nights on the highway, when it felt like it just hurt to breathe, Baker’s songs lifted the words out of my throat and sang them to me. At other times, it’s been Phoebe Bridgers’ “Georgia” or Lucy Dacus’ “Night Shift” that drift through the background of days spent in bed staring at the ceiling.
There’s really no better soundtrack. Devastating is a word that gets tossed around a lot in describing the individual works of the trio of songwriters composing boygenius, each of whom have earned unique acclaim from their own new records within roughly the past year. Each has their own penchant for penning songs of heartbreak and inner tumult that are, indeed, devastating. Knowing that each musician is both female and openly queer, like myself, has also made it that much easier to adopt their lovesick forlorn as my own. Sometimes I can’t help but let myself sink into it.
But faced with unrelenting news of the administration and mounting allegations, coupled with the normal blows and tragedies that come with life, where’s the time to fall apart? We—especially women, and most especially women of color and LGBTQ+-identifying people—need to save the world from guns sexual assault and from the government. And at more than a few points along the way, we have to save ourselves.
You ever get so tired that you’re too tired to talk about being tired anymore?
All these emotions—the heartbreak, the lethargy and, on good days, some blind hope—all occupy the same cavernous space. It’s hard to maintain a semblance of composure in the chaos. We are devastated. So how do we rebuild while we’re falling apart?
boygenius, the six-song EP that the bona fide supergroup shared this week, is an ode to all these feelings simultaneously, all at once resilient and tremendously vulnerable. Many of the songs feel like a catharsis for its writers, none more so than the swelling “Salt In The Wound,” a track that laments being taken advantage of (ostensibly by the overconfident music industry men who inspired the group’s tongue-in-cheek moniker), but triumphantly culminates in a full-scale shred, an instrumental fuck you.
The harmonies in the song’s climax, as well as in others such as the Baker-led “Stay Down,” are the explosions we only dream of having, like screaming alone in your apartment when all your roommates are finally gone or pulling into an abandoned parking lot and holding down your car horn for 10 straight seconds, just to get it all out until you can finally breathe again.
The EP was reportedly written in a mere four days at a studio in L.A., but I like to imagine it as the musical outcome of that Netflix original about women taking over society. The project was entirely undertaken by the women comprising the trio, and that raw energy glimmers in every song. It skirts the compartmentalizations we demand of female-led bands—Are you lovesick? Are you angry? How can we market you?
boygenius answer that they are all of these things at once, and so much more. They are the best friend who lets you fall apart, but never lets you apologize for the way that you feel. “I never said I’d be all right—just thought I could hold myself together,” the trio harmonize: a vulnerable admission, but the three voices together, each distinct and earnest, betray its strength. These songs are a proclamation of pain and loss in the lives of songs of women; Today, there is no more powerful statement. The quiet power of these women is, in fact, not quiet at all.
This is what it feels like to come together. This is how it feels every time we finally, finally win. When we stop apologizing for saying exactly how we feel, and when we truly believe that our words have worth. Baker, Bridgers and Dacus have homed in on this exact space that gives validity to the feelings both of wanting to give up and needing to fight back. When the state of the world finally runs your well dry, boygenius pour back into it, promising you that we will get through this together.
The trio embark on tour together this November—a package actually coordinated prior to the band’s formation, that went on to be the catalyst for the longtime friends to write together. We’ve already had glimpses at how these songs perform live when two of the songwriters are able to meet up, such as when Bridgers and Dacus performed “Me & My Dog” at the former’s show.
At End Of The Road festival, Dacus appeared during Baker’s set to perform the searing opening track from the EP, “Bite The Hand,” a song that ends in a repeated chorus of the simple but beautiful “I can’t love you how you want me to.”
At the song’s conclusion, the audience cheered prematurely, before the line’s final a cappella repetition. For a moment, you see Baker and Dacus candidly exchange a knowing glance, a shared smile that says, do we do it? And with an inhale punctuating the applause, they silently agree, then sing it just as they should—in perfect time, together.
full boygenius EP out today. it has been a rough past week/month/season/year but I am grateful to have created this alongside two women who remind me of the power we have to shape our world and who challenge me to continue striving & growing. Hope that these songs can give everyone some small piece of the encouragement I felt making them. Listen here ???????? http://mat-r.co/boygenius Thank you @_fake_nudes_ @lucydacus love y’all goobs
boygenius is currently on streaming platforms, and physical copies will be released Nov. 9 with preorders available now.