December 13, 2022
“This is why I don’t leave the house,” Hayley Williams proclaims at the top of the chorus on Paramore’s bold comeback single “This Is Why.” It’s a triumphant and fun moment undercut by the double-punch of the fearfulness and the resolve of what follows: “You say the coast is clear / But you won’t catch me out.”
Williams’s isolation started when she and the rest of Paramore decided to take a break following 2017’s After Laughter, but it continued as the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020. She told the BBC that she appreciated time away from touring and being in the public eye. “Everyone that really had to spend time alone was like, ‘Man, I learned a lot about myself and I think I needed it. I don’t think I would have slowed down. I don’t think I would have gotten time with my family,’’’ Williams said.
However, she’s not the only artist who appreciated having some time to herself. Throughout 2022, there were a surprising number of songs about staying home and not going out, in contrast to the supposed excitement of being able to meet up again after widespread lockdowns and a few years of intermittent social restrictions. For some, the longing for alone time comes from feelings of exhaustion and burnout. For others, it reflects coming to terms with the often-expensive realities of adulthood. And sometimes, it’s a turn away from the escapism a night out offers.
In certain examples, the draw of becoming a homebody is directly related to aging and the challenges that come with cycling through your twenties. 5 Seconds of Summer’s bittersweet “Best Friends,” released in September, reminisces about being “on the other side of 24,” while the group address someone whose carousing days are behind them on the wistful “You Don’t Go to Parties.” Willow, meanwhile, confesses to not wanting to leave her house on the dynamic “Curious/Furious” (“I just wanna sit in my room instead”) and hating small talk on the bouncy “Falling Endlessly” (“Fuck the small talk, chattin’, sitting down”). But at the same time, she expresses her frustration with loneliness with these lines from “Why?”: “I don’t wanna keep feelin’ alone / Isolation got me goin’ psycho.” It’s a tricky situation — no one wants to go out, but having to spend too much time on your own takes a toll, too.
This loneliness might be linked to the woes of having a thinning bank account — an all-too-common situation for those in the early stages of their careers. At the beginning of her aptly titled, somber song “20 Something,” Fletcher discusses her financial struggles: “I think there’s holes in my pockets / Money doesn’t stay in them no more.” If you can’t afford to go out, these hardships could give way to isolation, a feeling that runs through the song. She admits in the pre-chorus: “Lately I’ve been feeling kinda lonely.” Sasha Alex Sloan treads the same terrain, navigating her perceived expectations of being in her mid-twenties. “Being an adult is fucking hard,” she sings on “Adult.” “I’m still holding onto my mom’s credit card / No one ever told me growing up gets kinda lonely.”
The insecurity that stems from that is enough to make anyone want to cancel plans. Plus, it’s becoming increasingly hard for musicians to make a living off their music, a reality that’s been exacerbated by COVID-19-related challenges. Confronted with all of that, Sloan’s decision to retreat into her room makes sense. “Don’t wanna live my best life / Just wanna lay here all night,” she sings on “Live Laugh Love.” When she waxes about avoiding social situations — “I don’t wanna go to your party / No, I don’t wanna see anybody” — it sounds less like accepting everyone is on their own path and more like admitting defeat.
Christine Goodwyne sings about the same thing on Pool Kids’s self-titled sophomore record. On “Couch,” which appears to signal the end of a relationship, she states, “I guess I’m staying on the couch today,” in a light, dreamy, detached way that mirrors her resignation. The lethargy in the lyrics permeates Pool Kids, its ebbs and flows reflecting a cycle of burnout seemingly stemming from a less-than-ideal working situation. “I work a job where / I swear to God they’re setting the timer / When I take a bathroom break / And I’m barely scraping minimum wage,” Goodwyne sings on the propulsive “Arm’s Length.” Her exhaustion is clear in the lines, “I don’t think I have the energy / To make it out of my bed today,” which she delivers with a surprising amount of force and emotion. It’s compounded by her struggles with virtual connection. “I’m in a group chat / With 21 goddamn people / I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not / My phone crashes 37 times a day,” a situation for which neither she nor her phone has the bandwidth. There’s a conflict between the possibilities for communication and the depth of those actual interactions. She goes on to sing, “But it’s nice to have friends / Sometimes it’s nice to be left on read / Wait, no it’s not,” expressing the longing for meaningful connection.
Wet Leg’s deceptively buoyant “Angelica” — “I don’t wanna follow you on the ‘gram / I don’t wanna listen to your band / I don’t know why I haven’t left yet” — goes where these other songs don’t: to an actual party. Predictably, the event is not as great as everyone thought it would be, since “the ambience was overrated.” The quip “Good times, all the time” is digitized and devoid of emotion, as if the partygoers are simply going through the motions of socializing and forcing themselves to have fun. But the bash goes from disappointing to disastrous when the titular Angelica “obliterate[s] everybody” with her ray gun.
Wet Leg’s singer Rhian Teasdale said the song is “about that disenchantment with that kind of party lifestyle that you have when you’re younger.” It’s fitting for an album she has described as “sad music for party people and party music for sad people.” Case in point: the melancholy “I Don’t Wanna Go Out,” which rejects partying as an escape from the challenges of early adulthood. “You’re trying to distract yourself from not achieving the things that you want to achieve in life by going to these parties. But you can’t keep kidding yourself,” Teasdale explained. Like Sloan’s “Adult,” the song talks about failing to progress as far as you’d like — and “sleepwalking into adulthood,” as Wet Leg’s “Too Late Now” captures — and the pressure to get your life together. “I’m almost 28 / Still getting off my stupid face,” it confesses.
This disillusionment with growing up is rooted in a sense of failure — although maybe we shouldn’t be using these stereotypical milestones to measure growth in the first place. Adulthood is as overrated as — and maybe less exciting than — the party Angelica disrupted. That realization would make anyone want to stay on the couch.
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December 13, 2022