Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

MUNA – Number One Fan

We have no choice but to (checks score) …give a [6]?


Leah Isobel: About U‘s ability to make gay adolescence seem poetic instead of, like, thoroughly humiliating made it one of my favorite records of 2017, but any more elegiac lyrical evocations of the past would feel like too much navel-gazing. So for their new single, MUNA turn their eyes toward the present; the protagonist from their debut is a little older, much better at dancing, and officially Online. The vocoder turns Katie Gavin’s already-brittle intonation into sheet metal, and the hollowness around the synth and guitar tones suggests one of those extremely ’90s Internet PSAs. The lyrics, meanwhile, do something so completely obvious I can’t believe it hasn’t happened yet: They filter self-love through the purposefully exaggerated language of stan Twitter. Depending on my mood, this either reads as a brilliant evocation of the struggle to love oneself by just trying harder (borne out by the prechorus, which is the best part of the song), or as cheap pandering. The meta-implications of getting their audience to sing “I’m your number one fan!” back at them are too good for me to resist, but this particular strain of slang doesn’t feel entirely suited to their brand of suburban emo.

Will Adams: MUNA’s mastery of imbuing sincerity into otherwise cheesy mantras (see also: “don’t you be afraid of love and affection”) is what lets them get away with a song that’s about loving yourself, free of any of the subtext that usually comes with it, that even includes words like “stan” and “iconic” in its chorus. As with “I Know a Place,” the mood is celebratory — a grooving, Technotronic bassline, guitar licks peppered in judiciously, synth chords that burst like confetti — only stopping to reveal its doubt in the bridge (“in the thick of it, will you stick up for me?”). For a Pride month particularly marked with dead-eyed corporate lip service and certain other pop stars fumbling with allyship, having something as earnest as “Number One Fan” is a damn triumph.

Stephen Eisermann: This song makes no effort to hide its pandering, but with such a peppy production, it’s almost forgivable. Almost. The disinterested vocal prevents this from being great, but man, was it close.

Vikram Joseph: A song about self-belief that doesn’t seem to believe in itself; the tightly-wound verses accumulate a potential energy that needs to find release, but instead spills away in the pre-chorus and evaporates entirely in the flaccid, anticlimactic chorus. The vocal melody bears much of the blame, flatlining around a few mid-range notes and exposing Katie Gavin’s weaknesses as a vocalist. The brash synth that serves as a post-chorus drop is fun, but I’m not sure MUNA are very good at middle eights — a slow, soupy 30 seconds also derailed “Winterbreak,” a far better song than this.

Katherine St Asaph: Yet another song that starts seething and knife-poised but immediately abandons all tension for major-key blahs. The only difference is “Number One Fan” doesn’t even wait the whole verse to drop it. What it has instead is a chorus of stan shit. And given that for the past decade of my life, and probably for the rest of it, stans have shown me how many thousands of people think I’m an awful person, up to and including sending me death threats, echoes of that are not remotely assuring in any context. Nor is the overarching premise much better. I await the day pop culture and pop psychology stop haranguing people about how they should ignore the tides of people calling them shit, and instead direct those efforts at stopping the tides.

Iris Xie: It has a hilarious intro that’s a sure attention-grabber, but it settles back and becomes really muddled after the initial verse is over. Still, the screwy zipper of a synth throughout, combined with that delivery, makes me score it a [6] instead of a [5].

Katie Gill: It’s interesting how this song simultaneously has a darker sound than the classic overlook-your-flaws, self-love songs of Alessia Cara, Pink, and Christina Aguilera, and yet is more upbeat and peppy than all three of those. The chorus is overproduced in such a way that I doubt “Number One Fan” will ever reach the sing-along status of some of MUNA’s other work. But as weird and uneven and oddly constructed as “Number One Fan” is, I still love it a lot.

Alex Clifton: “Number One Fan” has made me think about the all the time I spent loving various idols and hating myself. I’ve latched onto obsessions just to remind myself that there’s something good in this world worth loving–my Jason Mraz years, that time I listened to only Arcade Fire for three months straight, the summer I could only focus on One Direction content, the whole year I spent focusing on BTS so I could ignore the trashfire of 2017. During those years I’d look at myself in the mirror and feel so unworthy of love for myself that I felt I had to pour it into something else. I never considered the concept of “being your own stan,” but it’s like all the stuff I’ve worked through in therapy–reworking your brain so it’s not beating itself up, telling all those voices saying you’re unlovable and evil and alone that they’re wrong, taking all the bad thoughts and forcing them into something better and more productive. Rather than holing up and listening to Bon Iver in the dark for six hours, it’s okay to love yourself and be your own biggest fan. “Number One Fan” is a much-needed reminder for me, and also probably one of my favourite songs this year.

Jonathan Bradley: The diagnosis is better and more terrible than the cure. “I heard the bad news/nobody likes me and I’m gonna die alone” is delivered over forceful chunks of synth bass with declarative finality. It’s bitter, perhaps because it’s cruel or perhaps because it could be true. But when, for the chorus of “Number One Fan,” Katie Gavin turns stan culture inward, it doesn’t make it more uplifting; it subsumes her own esteem into that hungry emptiness. Nonetheless, the repetition of slang and filler words — “like, oh my god, like,” “so iconic, like big, like stan” — in that hook builds up its own rhythmic sense, one that is more affirmative than the resolution itself. But it’s the cold dread of the opening that is this song’s best moment. Add that to “I knew, when you told me you don’t want to go home tonight…” and “I saw a beautiful girl on the street/she looked nothing like me…” as evidence of this band’s arresting ability to conjure scene-setting openers.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Of all the recent tracks to turn the dialect of stan twitter back onto itself, this is the only one to really work. That’s partially because MUNA is a very good at the basic functionalities of being a band– just listen to the little contours of the guitar track, or how self-assured the drum groove is. But “Number One Fan” really works because it understands that fandom is deeply self-centered yet never narcissistic. Obsessing in fandom is the abandonment of the self and the taking on of something greater than you as replacement. MUNA short circuits that equation: for better or for worse, the only thing to stan is yourself.

Reader average: [7] (5 votes)

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