Thursday, April 4th, 2019

Sky Ferreira – Downhill Lullaby

Future internet historians, this is where “abused-girl pop” was coined.


Ashley Bardhan: A “downhill lullaby” is romantic. It’s a sweet song to take you lower. It’s being ashamed of a bruise you have, but still taking a photo so you remember what it looked like. The chorus of strings that open this track come out like a whimper, they want you to hear them wailing in the daylight so when the drums start to echo, you’re ready to descend. Sky Ferreira’s first words, sounding red raw in her throat, are “You leave me open when you hit me / No one can hear me.” How can the violins cry so prettily when there’s violence in the lyrics? How can a love be so tender when there’s violence in the relationship? Sometimes I self-deprecatingly call the music I listen to “abused-girl pop,” but the feeling of being in a toxic or abusive relationship is so specific and so rarely captured in media in a way that feels honest, that maybe that is the reason I gravitate towards certain music more than others. This song is sexy, and it scares me. Sky sings —  more like prophecies — about being ripped open, blue lips, “bludgeoned affection” … and how perfect it is. Towards the end, she sounds like a ghost with layers of vocals both purring and keening about “going downhill.” And then the song is over. When it’s over, you still remember how it felt. 

Ian Mathers: I guess putting this in the new Twin Peaks would have been too on the nose?

Katherine St Asaph: Funny how between Night Time, My Time and this, Sky Ferreira’s covered both the alt-rock and the trip-hop halves of the Buffy soundtrack. Between the Ex:Re single and this, 2019 is shaping up to be a phenomenal year for reminders of all the female singer-songwriters I grew up with and rarely saw anyone else rate. “Downhill Lullaby,” too, reminds me of many of them: Kym Brown on Pygmalion, Carina Round on “Sit Tight,” recently Meg Myers on pretty much anything and more generally 1999-2001.

Claire Biddles: “Downhill Lullaby” is serious, convincing, adult melodrama: luxury strings and a wrecked-out voice; the strange dignity in signing all your options over to chance, or erratic substances, or someone (anyone) else. Like masking the taste of bile with vodka tonics, it’s born of nihilistic cliché; but it’s still real, and still mortifyingly seductive.

Joshua Copperman: This is impressive, disturbing, and makes me uncomfortable. There are so many pretty things about this song, especially the string arrangement and the chorus (“down… hill…”) but the claustrophobic mix drowns them all out – it’s hard to be fully immersed when the strings are so harsh and random sound effects appear like cheap jump scares in an otherwise ‘elevated’ horror film. When the low end drifts off in the last third of the track, the song becomes completely ungrounded, lost in its own atonal misery. When it works, it works, but the song at the core is not worth the sensory overload.

David Moore: Sky Ferreira specializes in deceptively up downers, but here the inertia from the droning Beatles strings (evoking the Ekkehard Ehlers loop of “Good Night”) drags the whole song downhill. Maybe it works as a closer — she brings in a slow-mo Velvet Underground orchestral squall midway through that hints at dark conclusions.

Alfred Soto: Six years after Night Time, My Time limned the terror and frustration of a woman too young to endure the depredations of the record industry, Sky Ferreira returns with a thickly mixed, almost ponderous noise cloud, picking up where the last album’s title track left off. It’s compelling because like a seasoned actress Ferreira knows how to manipulate her charisma. From anyone else, I’d fidget.

Vikram Joseph: Sky Ferreira’s pre-release hype tweets tell us that there will be pop songs on Masochism; this just isn’t one of them. “Downhill Lullaby” is certainly a startling choice for a lead single; it has echoes of Lana Del Rey and Madonna’s “Frozen”, but in its thick, foreboding slide and guttural chug has more in common with the glacial, broken-robot slowcore of Low at their most greyscale. Unfortunately, it forgoes hooks in search of a dramatic heft that it never quite obtains; the strings circle ominously without ever amounting to anything more than a signifier that this is Big and Artistic. The lyrics are dark and hint at the promised Masochism of the forthcoming album, but Ferreira’s vocals are lost and ineffective way down at the muddy low-end of the mix. We can but hope that the album folds her more experimental impulses into some better-constructed songs.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: “Downhill Lullaby” is a pleasant hell. From that crawling, slow bassline that drags through the entire track to the screeches of strings that are just as pervasive, Sky Ferreira’s soundscape is claustrophobic and visceral. To live inside of this track, to carry it around with you in the world, is an exercise in anxiety and fear and the feeling of being trapped. It’s a song that simultaneously makes its singer small and makes her the only thing that matters– the way she growls and mutters out every syllable as if she is singing only to herself, the way the track seems to follow her lead like some organic thing. It’s not a song that I can listen to very often, but it’s worth it whenever I can.

Reader average: [7] (14 votes)

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One Response to “Sky Ferreira – Downhill Lullaby”

  1. Doggone it I underrated this :(