Friday, March 20th, 2020

Anne-Marie – Birthday

Anne Marie is just going to bring us a birthday gift on our birthday to our birthday party on our birthday with a birthday gift. (It’s not actually our birthday)

Katie Gill: Just because you’ve found a bunch of fun sound effects on your keyboard doesn’t mean that you have to use ALL of them during the verses.

Michael Hong: It’s bold, it’s brash, it has the energy of a funhouse covered in streamers and candles and blown up to double its size. That’s to say, “Birthday” could have been a hell of an event if it didn’t feel so self-serving and artificial, like you were attending the event of someone who only invited you because they knew you’d bring a good gift.

Alfred Soto: The enervated vocal and blah beats suggests self-congratulation at 2 a.m. when your friends have gone home but you’re still drunk.

Kayla Beardslee: One of those pop songs that exists in a strange vacuum of competency and pointlessness. Who is this for — who wants to hear a successful pop star lie about not being able to afford their rent? If you want to shout about yourself (which isn’t inherently bad: we all need self-esteem boosts now and then), at least do it over a less basic beat. And don’t constantly remind your ex that “I ain’t thinkin’ ’bout you” when you’re the one who keeps unconvincingly referring back to the breakup (“I won’t cry about you anymore”; “Whatever I can do to get my mind off you”). I guess every year from now on has to begin with a posturingly pink anthem about mindless consumption. Maybe I hate this “7 Rings” aesthetic because it tries to have the best (eh… the most) of both worlds — the stereotypically feminine vs. the one-dimensionally bitchy and competitive — without ever looking for nuance. Women be bratty, amirite, but it’s fine because they’re sticking to their pretty pink gender norms and not threatening us. Although light-hearted tracks like “Birthday” aren’t required to comment on femininity/fame/other deeper concepts, the song is hollow and self-centered even when grading on a curve: stripped down, all that’s really there is a celebrity demanding money and attention, in a tone that’s not nearly joking enough.

Joshua Lu: At first glance, “Birthday” is a bold affirmation of Anne-Marie’s right to be young, stupid, and horny that I can’t believe Bebe Rexha didn’t cowrite. But there’s an underlying sadness to “Birthday” that makes these histrionic festivities feel forced, best exemplified by that contradictory statement of “Now I ain’t thinkin’ ’bout you.” The heartbreak she’s desperately fleeing gives her recklessness not justification, but purpose. Part of me wishes she left this aspect out — a party song doesn’t need tragic backstory, and isn’t necessarily stronger with one — but it makes sense; rarely is a party felt without some lingering sense of sorrow.

Kylo Nocom: A grotesque blend of SOPHIE sound design and more conventionally obnoxious trap-pop. Yet who doesn’t love causing some shit on their birthday? Anne-Marie has a fine addition to the annoying party-girl canon of pop, slotting in nicely as a substitute for Melanie Martinez’s “Pity Party” post-cancellation.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: There are so many specific choices being made here in the lyrics and the production (especially Anne-Marie’s vocal production) and I hate every single one of them. This sounds like a Target ad from hell.

Leah Isobel: [hits bong] Dude, birthdays are, like, liminal spaces… they’re concentrated 24-hour blasts of solemn reflection and consumeristic hedonism. It makes total sense that people start to hate them and wanna get drunk and make stupid decisions. It’s, like, who even enjoys their birthday in 2020? [coughs] Like, bro. Anne-Marie’s singing about feeling heartbroken on a day that’s supposed to be a celebration of her life. She’s fucking-…. she’s like, “I’m supposed to be happy but all I can think about are my dumb decisions and regrets! And I can’t even pay my rent!” Oh, sorry, I’m hogging this. [passes bong] But like… do you think she even pays rent? Like, I know popstars are people too and stuff but you’d think she, like, bought her own place by now or something. “Look at me, give me money” is a pretty direct summary of what it’s like to be a pop artist but in this context it feels more pandering than, like, honest. It’s like, yeah, we know birthdays are shit, but that doesn’t mean it feels good to listen to an adult basically have a tantrum on record, no matter how catchy it is. Can I see that again? [hits bong] What do you mean it’s just a pop song?

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