Friday, August 11th, 2017

Lauv – I Like Me Better

And we like controversy!


Will Rivitz: One of about a million things that makes Carly Rae Jepsen’s artistry so compelling is the way she effortlessly makes the listener believe in the love she’s alternately stumbling into, living, and losing. She sings about The Feeling more viscerally and powerfully than anyone else I’ve found, and you can’t help but find yourself swept into the flurry of emotions she evokes whenever anything she creates comes on. “I Like Me Better” is a perfect song for exactly the same reason: its unassuming treatment of the very same Feeling is infectious, and I can’t escape its deceptively massive pull without at least a faint smile plastering itself on my face. Lauv captures the banalities of the morning after with the rosiest of tints, pitched-down strings swelling with the silly sensation of satisfaction that spreads through your body while you look at the person who maybe might just be the one disheveledly drinking their morning coffee, at least at the times when you can get the memories of kissing them under the streetlights for the first time out of your head for a moment. Every little detail – the roundness on the plucked bass adding extra warmth to the arrangement, the gorgeous reverb on the guitar line, the playful inflection on the singer’s voice when he brings in the chorus with an awestruck “Damn…” – is built immaculately, aerodynamically lathed to press all the right buttons and hit all the right heartstrings, and Lauv’s skill at evoking the sentiments he does is already astounding six songs into his career. It’s the purest rush of emotion I’ve heard all year, Jepsen’s humongous summer single included, and I’ll be in its thrall for months to come.

Thomas Inskeep: I suppose it’s good that you like yourself better, Lauv, because I don’t like you at all. 

Ian Mathers: “What’s the most self-aggrandizing way I can phrase my love and admiration for another person? Bonus points if I can manage to convey the impression I might be a Bachelorette contestant or something.” Plus one point for the nicely creaky sample (of?) that opens the track and could conceivably be used in a better song.

Tim de Reuse: Well, the restraint is refreshing! Half the song takes place over hushed snaps and shy little synth plucks in an acoustically-untreated garage, letting the vocals take center stage: a perfectly fine setup that completely backfires. The main issue is that I’d be completely unable to pick Lauv’s voice out of a lineup because he refuses to reach for anything that wasn’t well-trodden pop ground several years ago. Worse, the lyrics are unflavored bubblegum, expressing contentment in a way that is precisely and deliberately neutral — the immediate NYC scene-setting ought to clue you in to how much this tune loves the culturally generic! It’s almost impressive how thoroughly he’s wrung all of the potential excitement out of a declaration of new love and replaced it with the tedium of a children’s song. There are, frustratingly, drops of ambition here and there in the sound design, like the sparse, scratchy guitar and the rich chopped-and-screwed string instrument in the after-chorus; the rest is just dull, even if it’s dull for kind of interesting reasons.

Will Adams: The invocation of New York would annoy me more had I not had the exact experience in that city. The premise is familiar, even for this year, but it’s one that has nagged me for years: how to reconcile the selflessness of loving someone else with the self-interest of wanting to be loved. “I like me better when I’m with you” summarizes it neatly, and unlike my previous examples, Lauv sings in the present, in the what-could-be-for-me. But even he sounds apprehensive. The misty-eyed hook, a vocal turned into a sax, wails on and on over an introverted instrumental that never wants to become too big. The promise is in Ari Leff’s delivery during that one line, which sounds like the elbow bending after a stand-off at arm’s length.

Ashley John: I’ve put myself purposely through the obstacle course of going to shows by myself and drinking a gin and tonic without anyone to turn to for conversation. What I hear in this song more than comfort is surprise. Between plucky beats Lauv sounds wondrous at the realization that sharing a moment doesn’t mean splitting the benefits. “I Like Me Better” is uncomplicated to the point of formulaic, but the sound of a comfortable relationship is sweet still. 

William John: Just trite enough to earn an invitation to the Chainsmokers’ next writing camp.

Reader average: [7] (2 votes)

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