Monday, May 21st, 2018

Florence + The Machine – Hunger

Our High as Hope hopes get slightly higher after single number two…


Claire Biddles: “At seventeen I started to starve myself” is an undeniably brave opening line, but “Hunger” descends into well-worn territory so quickly: drugs and sex and performing won’t make you feel less lonely! Who knew? No matter how common they are, sometimes a singer repeating your unquenched desires back to you can feel revelatory, but this just feels like going through the motions. Maybe it will feel vital to someone else; I hope it does.

Alfred Soto: The starkness of its opening line excepted, “Hunger” tries to quench appetites using the trappings of a melodrama that the rest of the song doesn’t earn. Every leaked track since 2015 has made me second guess what attracted me to Florence Welsh’s music.

Hannah Jocelyn: I’m very excited for this era of Florence + The Machine. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful was initially teased as a stripped-down “rock” record, but no album with a song like “Mother” can reasonably be called stripped-down. As much as I’d love to see Florence do a psychedelic rock album, High as Hope, beginning with the gorgeous “Sky Full of Song,” seems to go the opposite way. It’s definitely a big song, but with much more space for Florence’s voice to cut through. Meanwhile, Florence’s lyrics are miles away from her previous work — out with kisses that lasted for 20 years, in with “at 17, I started to starve myself” and using that as a jumping-off point to sing about looking for approval and validation. For someone who’s something of a memetic forest goddess, that’s the most intimately human she’s ever been. It’s not a perfect song, but because of the humanity, even the parts that I know don’t work (“use your body, baby/come on and work it for me”) only make me like it more. It’s Florence taking a genuine risk, and while extrapolating an artist’s emotions from a literal performance is seldom a good idea, watching how joyous Florence is performing this song shows how powerfully it paid off.  

Juana Giaimo: There are certain songs that are brand new but feel dated. “Hunger” is one of them: Florence + the Machine haven’t changed much throughout the years and this is evident on their new single. Florence Welsh still aims to be the most passionate singer by vibrating her voice when she reaches falsettos and by extending a few seconds on shouted vowels. But we already know these tricks, as well as the idyllic background with the harp. The lyrics try to be encouraging to the youth of these days, but they fall flat in a song that doesn’t risk too much.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: A fiery opening line that’s stoked by the verses. Their lyrics may be straightforward but Welch’s empassioned and sinuous vocal melodies carve out some emotional heft. A shame that it’s all repeatedly betrayed by the trite stadium sing-along of a chorus.

Juan F. Carruyo : I rather like this. It’s epic without being overbearing and soulful without delving into parody. The lyrics are specific enough to convey the feeling of being young folks who continuously turn their desperation into ambition. I could see this playing behind some neat commercials for the upcoming World Cup. 

Tim de Reuse: The bold, thumping production makes for a satisfying chant, worth every call-and-response repeat it gets; the rambling, occasionally-rhyming verses are vulnerable and raw in their irregularity. The bombastic parts might have been more satisfying if the verses had been allowed to sprawl and develop and act as context instead of repeating once and cutting off abruptly.

Katherine St Asaph: There is no human hunger like unto the hunger for fun. production. (It’s actually Emile Haynie; close enough.)

William John: Said Florence Welch of “Hunger”: “this song was never meant to be a song, it was a poem, written in an effort to understand the ways I looked for love in things that were not love.” It’s a prescient comment for the critic to absorb, because on the page the first and second verses in particular of “Hunger” read like resignation, as though a cycle has definitively ended and there are no prospects of regeneration or comeback. But then, as a song, “Hunger” doesn’t sound like that at all — indeed quite the reverse. It might be the way Welch’s voice trembles very slightly, like she’s only just worked out how to articulate this new, powerful insight, but “Hunger” sounds like the work of someone perspicacious, someone who’s worked out that triumphs are born from failures, and that sometimes all that’s needed to breach that gap is a little time and knowledge. The sloping strings and the way Welch’s voice swoops and soars, shouting percussively when referring to bodily strength before slowing to softness just a few bars later, synthesise in ways in which I’m not sure they’ve ever done so seamlessly in Welch’s career thus far. The effect is exhilarating.

Jonathan Bogart: I’ve long been a Florence skeptic, with or without the Machine: something about powerful voices belting out their lyrics always makes me want to cower and take shelter. Maybe it’s that she finally hit on a topic that resonated with me, or maybe I’m growing old and patient enough to actually pay attention. But the whirls and shouts of “Hunger” no longer sound like pronouncements, but cries of desperation. A lot gets conflated, from eating disorders to meat-market dating scenes to even (sigh) the isolation of stardom, but the sharpness of lyrics like “you make a fool of death with your beauty” and, more, the specificity with which she lunges at them, shapes the confused bricolage into a lean, meaning pop machine, good for whatever you need it to signify.

Reader average: [9.66] (3 votes)

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3 Responses to “Florence + The Machine – Hunger”

  1. controversyyyyy
    I’m pleasantly surprised to not be the only fan of this song

  2. it’s a good song!

  3. to be honest it’s probably the most enthusiastic i’ve been about a florence single since “dog days” (though I did really like “st. jude” from the last album)