Finally, it feels like music is flooding back. After so many albums got cancelled and pushed in the spring and early summers, there's been a wave of new singles and album announcements from artists I love. From YUNGBLUD to Miley Cyrus to Julia Michaels, these announcements and teases make fall into winter seem like a particularly exciting time for new music. Two artists who's new releases I'm most excited for are Fletcher and Sasha Sloan.
Both Sasha and Fletcher dropped album announcements, new lead singles, and music videos almost out of the blue. Considering they're two of my favorite artists, I was on cloud 9 with all the new stuff. I wanted to do a double feature of "What's In My Earbuds" to discuss the songs, videos, and album roll outs.
Starting with Sasha because her song dropped first (August 7th), "Lie" is the new lead single off of her album first album, Only Child. While it doesn't seem to have a release date yet, it looks like it will be at least soon-ish. She even dropped a cute trailer about the album on IGTV before the song came out. I instantly liked "Lie". While it has more of a popy sensibility than some of Sasha's other songs, the lyrics are just as honest and heart wrenching as ever.
I particularly like Sasha's songs because she covers a lot of topics that are often left out of music (parental relationships, depression, friendships, and more internally focused songs). "Lie" might actually be in the minority of her songs as its about a romantic relationship. Still, true to character, she manages to look at a crumbling relationship from an angle that feels fresh. Also, naming the album Only Child makes me think those other topics will be heavily covered as well.
The song makes you want to dance and cry at the same time as the glittery, disco ball production backs her pleas to her partner to lie and pretend instead of giving up on their relationship. Sasha has a way of making you deeply identify with emotions and situations even if you've never personally been in the situation. She mixes desperation and fear so well in a couple striking lines that cut to the heart.
Then, on August 13th, she released a music video for the song. From an aesthetic point of view, I love this video. It's shot in a dark trailer, but everything looks so crisp and the set has so many small details scattered around to make the place feel lived in. I was completely sucked in by the way they chose the shots.
As for content, the video seems to add an extra layer of meaning to the song. While the guy leaves her in the beginning, the video progresses to show Sasha logging into various web forum under many identities and chatting with unsuspecting people on the internet (who also don't seem to be telling the full truth about their identities either) and discussing random things like prom shopping and allegedly being in Italy. You can tell she's formed real friendships with all of these people, even under false pretenses. Whoever designed the video excelled at giving the entire thing the same vibes as all those horror stories parents and teachers love to paint about old men in their basements creeping on the internet. The video showed a different side of that (none of the people behind the screen happened to be creepy or particularly old), but they are all lying. At the end, she abandons the forums and everyone is left wondering what happened to her.
While this is a very different story than the one Sasha has described in interviews about the spark of the song, it cuts back to the idea of living in denial and being okay with accepting the possibility living in a broken fantasy. Sometimes, half truths are used to make scabs over feelings. While it took me a second to fully grasp everything that was going on in the video, I thought it definitely added to the song.
"Lie" isn't my favorite Sasha song, but it definitely leaves me curious about the rest of the album.
Don't be honest/Promise me that you want this
I want you to lie, lie right to my face/Want you to put your hands on my waist
Baby just give me another day/Touch me like there isn't something missing
Then Fletcher ended the week with a surprise song, album announcement, and track list. Fletcher had wiped most of her Instagram about a week earlier, but I didn't think anything would come of that for a while. I was wrong! Now we have "If I Hated You" and a list of seven songs on The S(ex) Tapes to look forward to on September 18th. When the album drops, there will only be 5 new songs, though. The track list also includes "Bitter" which was released earlier in the summer (accompanied with an equally sexy music video as "If I Hated You"), but the album version is still grayed out. I'm wondering if we're getting a new mix of it similar to what happened with Louis Tomlinson's "Don't Let It Break Your Heart" where the album version wound up being entirely different than the single.
Getting into "If I Hated On You", this song is full of Fletcher's signature wit and stinging honesty. This break up bop is full of regret. She laments the fact that the break up wasn't a down in flames situation but more of a wrong place, wrong time situation. "Forever", an earlier single that didn't up on the album, treads on similar ground in a much sadder way. Both songs go back to the idea that the relationship would be perfect if only she could be a different (and she seems to think better) person.
The breathy whisper of the chorus paired with the drum beat makes it easy to want to bounce and move to the song, so it falls under my personal favorite category of songs to dance to while you cry.
Lyrically, it probes some interesting territory as she both laments the lack of a horrible ending and thinks back to tiny moments that she shared with this person and wants back.
I love Fletcher for the tiny details she infuses into all of her songs. They set you firmly in the realm of the song and put you in Fletcher's brain in a really compelling way. It always makes her writing super relatable even though I haven't done a single thing Fletcher has ever talked about in any of her songs. The lines "If you weren't so good to me/I could change the background of my phone" and the entire second verse, "Took an eyelash off my face/Said "make a wish" and I made three/Wish I could love you better/Wish you'd kiss me; wish I wasn't me".
Bouncing off of that, this seems to be the regretful side of "Forever". "Forever" seems to be the fresh end of the relationship where she's like it's too bad that it ended cause you were the right person wrong time, but I'm not changing for you (You're the type I wanna spend my whole life with/But not the one I spent tonight with/We're just in two different places, you gotta face it/I wanna be young and party/Be dumb and never feel sorry). In "Forever", you get the hint that she's not thrilled with herself, but she's brushing it off. "If I Hated You" feels like the regret that sets in after the adrenaline runs out. There's a lot of regret in the song and since the other person didn't do much she could blame them for, she really turns on herself and cranks the self hate up to 10. While it's really sad, it is definitely relatable.
You might want to be selective where you play the music videos. As Fletcher said to a girl who said her parents wouldn't let her buy an album named The S(ex) Tapes, we did have "Bitter" and "Undrunk" as a warning. Fletcher isn't afraid to put it all out there (physically and emotionally), and that's honestly one of the reasons I admire her. Bitter was Calvin Klein + Fruit and "If I Hated You" is just Calvin Klein + hotel rooms. Interestingly, both videos for The S(ex) Tapes were filmed by Shannon who happens to be one of Fletcher's exes which just adds another extra layer of interest to the entire project. These almost visualizer type videos work well with the limits of quarantine and filming with small teams.
Also, I wanted to take a second to talk about how they've stylized The S(ex) Tapes because it took me a second to realize what they meant by that. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess ex is emphasized for a reason. It feels like this album/EP is going to be another complete story of a break up like You Ruined New York City For Me. (She's so good with titles). I'm also a fan of the black and white album artwork.
I'm excited that this song just promises more of Fletcher's signature brand of good music. Even though she makes pretty straightforward pop, I feel like her particular brand fills a niche that isn't covered by many other people (maybe Olivia O'Brien?). It's club level pop music that could give you an existential crisis if you listen too hard.
I wrote about "Bitter" when it first came out as well, so if you want to read that one, you can click here.
If I hated you, I know/I could do this on my own
But if I leave right now/I hope that you don't find someone/that touches me the way I do
My bedtime is the darkest/That's when I'm brokenhearted
You know I dream about/Getting back together in the future
Took an eyelash off my face/Said "make a wish" and I made three/Wish I could love you better/Wish you'd kiss me; wish I wasn't me
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