Since the advent of the 33 ⅓ record, albums have been fairly consistent; they often follow a particular theme present in all of the songs within them. Most artists pride themselves on creating albums surrounding a singular idea, either sonically or lyrically, where each of the songs blends together to push an individual narrative, whether it be personal, social, or simply an expression of the artist’s innermost thoughts. Most of the time albums drive a guided story they want to tell. The same can’t be said, however, for Who Really Cares, a lyrical collage released by TV Girl in 2016.
It’s almost impossible to pinpoint what genre this album would be classified as, almost every website I’ve seen that puts albums in genre brackets can’t even agree on one word that accurately describes the feelings this album inspires in listeners. I can’t help but think that this was intentional, that TV Girl wanted this to be a transformative album for anyone who listens, a work that inspires different meanings in whoever listens to it, where you can come up with your own interpretations of what the songs signify. It’s a spectrum not limited to one variety. This album is more of a film in sound than a typical album, each song is its own separate story, from start to end they each have their own plot, climax, and finale. Each song has its own world attached, a painted picture of colors, sounds, and smells that you can vividly picture in your head. Each song has its own aesthetic, they can all have their own Pinterest board. The album is an entire person, it’s devised on experiences anyone can have throughout their life, their ideals, and their outlook on the world and with their peers. This album perfects internal thoughts and seamlessly translates how we feel as humans into song.
It’s difficult to simply write a few paragraphs on why I personally believe “Who Really Cares” is a masterful album that deserves to be seen as a classic example of not limiting self-expression and utilizing experimental sounds. Rather than give a surface-level explanation of the album as a whole, I’d like to dig into each song independently and paint a picture of the meaning they inspire in me and describe just how they make me feel.
“The light from the billboard always shines
But it changes twelve times since you went away.”
Longing for a time past- “Cigarettes Out the Window” opens with a solemn beat with low, pulsating echoes of drums and guitar strings. The fluid layers of voices circulate through the melancholy instrumentals, forming a world shrouded in sadness, a world without hope. Towards the latter half of the song, there are cut clips of vintage voices conversing about their lost love for one another, giving the song yet another level of depth. The voices amplify the song into a vivid portrait of a life lost, a staple of what was, but is not anymore.
“We wanna talk about sex but we’re not allowed
Well you may not like it but you’d better learn how ‘cause it’s your turn now.”
Hopeful rebellion for sexual freedom – Similar to “Cigarettes out the Window,” “Not Allowed” uses solemn instruments and consistent, formulaic beats. It differs from “Cigarettes” however, in its almost hopeful tone, with slightly more energetic vocals and a quicker tempo. It oozes rebellion, the vocals teem with anger and disobedience. This is a letter to those who try to limit how artists express themselves, a middle finger to those limitations, and an expression of their annoyance. This song is unapologetically explicit, but it’s not made to shock listeners. The use of vulgar language and expressive terminology is used to tell a story of sex, the way it’s negatively used in society and the ramifications of relationships that are only bound through intercourse and not genuine love. This song is a PSA, a story to spread and focus people’s attention on a very real issue.
“I don’t really know if she cares or not,
All I know is she left a lot of
Stuff in my apartment
She’s never getting back.”
A twist on pop rap – One of the most unique tracks on this album, “Taking What’s Not Yours” perfectly uses juxtaposition. This is the one track on the album that is quite the opposite of all the other songs. It’s fast-paced and features rugged rhythmic vocals repeating the same phrase, “takin’ what’s not yours.” Just like the other tracks in this album, along with its vocals and beat, it has an underlying story that hints at a deeper meaning than just a simple catchy pop tune. This song is a cautionary tale of relationships and the impact left on people after a separation, especially the harm a tumultuous relationship can have on someone even after time passes. The memories linger, and all the little things like a box of lentils or jewelry in a box left in someone’s apartment can be reminders of good times, and symbols of a relationship you miss, even if it was best to end.
“I heard that you heard
That I was writing songs about you
That I was bad mouthin’ your name
In some shitty bar somewhere.”
The words of your internal voice – Similar to “Taking What’s Not Yours,” “Songs About Me” starts off with a quick tempo and vocals reminiscent of that in a rap song. This song has a lot to say, and it works with the rapid beat to precisely portray what someone’s internal voice sounds like. The warped voices mesh and fold over one another like jumbled puzzle pieces of words and phrases desperately trying to fit together into a coherent pattern. The psychedelic pumps and draws add another layer of confusion to the song, furthering the feeling of overthinking and constant worry. This song is what being an overthinker feels like, the jagged mess of thoughts and concerns constantly washing over you, filling your mind and making it impossible to think of anything else but random events and things you’ve said to people throughout your life, even if there’s no logical reason to be thinking about it. Even if there is no reason to be thinking about something, it happens regardless, and just like this song, it feels completely out of your control.
“I’m just gonna stay ‘til you tell me to go
I only wanna hear what I already know
But I just wanna hear it said out loud.”
A fight you never expected – Sometimes you never expect a relationship to fall apart. You know it happens, but to you, your relationship seems perfect, that nothing will ever separate you and your partner, that nothing will ever be bad enough for you to break up. It’s unexpected, frustrating, and heartbreaking. The end of something you thought was eternal is one of the hardest feelings someone could go through. “‘Till You Tell Me To Leave” tells that beautifully tragic tale in a song that’s somber yet serene, the vocals are warped, like fading memories of the last words shared between two people once in love.
“I always like the way you danced
It’s so easy to do
So much simpler than the one we did before.”
The happiest of them all – When I first was listening to this album and “(Do The) Act Like You’ve Never Met Me” began, I initially thought I had finished the Why Really Cares? and my Spotify was just skipping into my next playlist. But to my surprise, this was still a part of the same album. It’s the farthest departure from the rest of the tracks, it’s a step into a whole new genre that isn’t present in any of the other songs in this album. On its surface, the song seems like a simple dance song with lyrics directing listeners what dances move to use in a certain order, however, there’s also an underlying message that’s in line with the stories told in many of the other songs in the tracklist. The ideas of love, human experience, and communication about relationships and love between two people are present in this song, however, rather than being the focal point and highlighted heavily, they are slid in between the surface-level pop phrases to create a dyad in the song, a distraction hiding the true meaning of human experience and how emotions change at the blink of an eye. Specifically, this song hones in on commitment, and how for some, it’s such a scary concept that it’s impossible for them to tackle. The inconsistency and broken promises of someone weigh down their partner, they never have the stability needed to make a relationship work. All of this is hidden in the buoyant jingles of the song’s main instruments, slyly lying under the surface waiting to see who can uncover the hidden meaning behind a cheery, yet basic rhythm.
“And a little girl should be careful, but who’s gonna make her?
When those boys start playing too rough, well, who’s gonna save her?”
An Important Reminder – “Safeword” is one of the slowest songs on the album, the beat is softer, and the vocals are tender compared to other songs where they are more assertive and deep. I think this is because of the song’s message. This song isn’t a representation of childhood innocence or sexual freedom for young adults, this is a song dedicated to the youth of the new generations. A reminder for young girls to use their “safeword,” and to keep themselves safe the best they can because the world isn’t always bright and safe like many grow up thinking. Young women aren’t always taught how to defend themselves in the real world, they are chained up inside, shielded from being shown what lies in the dull world outside. This song reminds us that we are responsible for keeping ourselves safe, we can’t entrust that to anyone else, even our closest female role models, because there’s stuff even they can’t protect us from. This song is meant to be comforting but also important, a serious reminder for young women but told in a palatable way, in a way that’s not frightening yet is still concise. This song is a great example of exploring the harsh reality of our world in a comforting way, it’s a soothing wake up call to how unapologetic the world really is.
“Excuse me for a second
While I bang my head against this wall
And I’m starting to suspect
You don’t intend to do what you say at all.”
What does daydreaming sound like? – “For You” opens with a dreamy, warped recording of a woman talking about a woman’s experience in dating, a crescendo builds into the beat, and overlapping the voice, a wispy, light voice sings, “for you” over and over. It’s a loop, intermittent with the main vocals singing about dating and another person’s experience with a certain woman who defies their ideas of other women they’ve met in the past. Contrasting its serious tones and message, the song is whimsical and feels like a daydream, like the wandering thoughts of young lovers. The inexperienced love and juvenile ideas of sex and relationships are personified in a song that perfectly illustrates that period of life. The anxious stomach butterflies and wandering thoughts about their partner, the excitement of walking home with them after school. There are no worries in the air, except where you’re going to have your second date.
“And I remember how the pillows felt like clouds
Or was it the other way around?”
Psychedelic and Nostalgic – “Heaven is a Bedroom” transports me to my childhood, the innocent and colorful view of the world, and the comforting sounds of youth. If you’re chronically online like I am, you may have heard of the recent internet trend of the last few years called “liminal spaces” and the “backrooms.” These images that are spread across forums and social media are representations of nostalgic thinking and how we can reminisce about a previous time in our lives by just looking at an image. This song gives me that feeling, that enables me to close my eyes and see myself in my childhood home watching cartoons and eating my comfort foods of goldfish and gushers. This song is uplifting and cheerful, a gentle reminder to look fondly back at our childhoods, as it’s something we’ll never get to experience a second time.
“Here she comes walking down the street,
Maddie Klein and her fabulous loving machine.”
The Sounds of Romanticism – The smell of coffee grounds and caramel, the brisk and chilly breeze, and the slow, content movement of the world. “Loving Machine” breathes fall colors: the oranges, reds, yellows, and browns of the autumn season. It’s the perfect anthem for a late night in a dimly-lit coffee shop, when there are only a few patrons working silently on their devices; the baristas are slowly cleaning and winding down towards the end of their shifts and the atmosphere is calm. The easy melody mixed with mild beats is reminiscent of love and the sense of belonging, the times when life feels easy. There’s no stress or tension, just peace and comfort with the smell of cinnamon and the taste of pumpkin.
With only ten songs that add up to a little less than 40 minutes of playtime, this album is short and sweet, with hypnotic pop beats and intoxicating vocals that blend together to transcend genres and create a storybook in the form of an album. Each song is its own story, each told in its own unique way that resonates with listeners far more than forgettable pop anthems that you hear on repeat on national radio stations. This album works so well to portray what being human truly means, how unpredictable our emotions are, and how our lives are never a linear slope, but rather a jagged avalanche of mistakes and experiences. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to this album in its entirety yet, I highly encourage you to do so. With it being somewhat short, it would be perfect for your morning commute to work, your rush-hour trek home at the end of the workday, or the perfect background noise to keep your ears engaged while studying. In any case, I believe everyone should give this album a chance at least once because even if you don’t like one of them, you’re bound to find one that resonates with you, whether it be for its message, or for the genre-bending instrumentals.
Also, if you happen to already like TV Girl’s music or this album quickly becomes one of your favorites and you want to see them perform it live, they will be performing at KEMBA! Live in Columbus on October 18th at 7pm!
Mia Ashby is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. She’s very invested in film and loves to write about anything in the film/music genre. She has a knack for poetry, and often dreams of publishing her own psychological horror novel. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of the station.
Do you agree? Tell Mia by emailing her at email@example.com.
Written by: Emma Sedam
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