Friday, April 30th, 2021

Lucy Dacus – Hot & Heavy

Song title or rejected ’80s buddy cop pitch? (Song title.)


Samson Savill de Jong: Proof that the best way to write something universal is to write something intensely personal. Apparently Lucy Dacus only realised she was writing about her younger self at the same point most people will when listening to this song, ie halfway through, but it’s really impossible to hear it being about anything else once you clock it. Growing up continues to terrify me, but this song, looking back with a bittersweet eye, nevertheless contains the hope that where you end up might not be what you imagined, but it just might be alright. The emotions aren’t that simple, because living isn’t that simple, but this captures the emotional complexity expertly.

Vikram Joseph: There was a tweet (or more likely several iterations of the same one) that went viral in March or April last year; something to the effect of “if you’re thinking about messaging your ex in lockdown, don’t.” For those of us especially prone to pining for the imperfect past, there was something about that weird, disconcerting period — the whiplash that resulted when our bodies froze in place and our minds refused to — that exacerbated that tendency. There was something about the acute suspension of the forward motion of our lives that sent us hurtling into the past. I mostly only cry at films and TV shows, but on a sticky night in early summer I walked through east London in actual floods of tears because a guy I’d dated for an improbably short period of time two years earlier sent me a vaguely sentimental message on Facebook. This is the sort of crippling, disproportionate nostalgia that Lucy Dacus captures on “Hot & Heavy”, an achingly familiar bit of breezy indie-rock with the weight of an emotional juggernaut. Dacus is a much more direct songwriter than some of her peers, and this serves her well here; the song plays out in a single still-frame, in which she depicts not just the tidal-wave of memory but also effectively sketches out the other character in the story, who was “underestimated and overprotected” but has blossomed into something every bit as special as Dacus imagined they would. It’s hard not to read this in the light of unrequited (or partially requited?) queer longing – “you let me in your world until you had enough”; “couldn’t trust myself to proceed with caution”. You could write a novel about these protagonists. I can’t help but wonder if this flight of nostalgia came to her during those long, emotionally jet-lagged lockdown weeks.

Juana Giaimo: A couple of years ago I’d probably give this a higher rating, but I’m getting tired of these kind of indie songs with doubled vocals and harmonies, a melody consisting of one word after the other with almost no breaks, the soft strumming of an electric guitar and a couple of keyboard notes here and there. Songs are partly about formulas, of course, but this has turned into a cliché of how nostalgic emotions should sound and it’s just getting boring.

Alfred Soto: I had the lame-ass “Cold & Light” dismissal ready to go until the cacophony in the last third forced a re-evaluation. Turns out “Hot & Heavy” has cool rhythmic lurches and grace notes (e.g. the double-tracked vocals) and lyrics like “You were a secret to yourself.” I’m still getting used to Lucy Dacus’ timbre, though.

John S. Quinn-Puerta: Digging into the same sonic landscape as her cover of “Dancing in the Dark” from 2019, Dacus returns to the laughing-while-crying approach that I sorely missed on “Thumbs”. Lines like “You were a secret to yourself/You couldn’t keep from anyone else” punch harder over the upbeat guitar and drums, punctuated by half time measures in a chorus that, while repeated, still feels like the stream-of-consciousness lyricism that defines the best of Dacus’s work.

Ian Mathers: My favourite part is actually that ringing outro; it’s a really beautiful modulation of the steadily churning part of the song earlier on that works better for me than the more restrained bits. (I’m a sucker for those lyrics but they’re hitting me hardest when the music is loudest, for some reason.) At this point I know from experience that there’s like a 60%+ chance I’ll be back here in a month saying I underrated this one by a point or more, but the blurb is due now and I’m just not there yet.

Dorian Sinclair: “Hot & Heavy” has to it a circularity, a looping structure. It starts with the melody, which is tightly anchored to a low E — Dacus circles around it, but even when she steps away for a bar or two, gravity pulls her back. It’s carried into the lyrics: she sings of coming back to the start, then later in the song does exactly that, repeating the first verse verbatim. Words echo within and between verses, culminating in the bridge’s “over and over and over and over again” and “over it, over it, over it, over it”. Then, just as she seems most stuck, a shift — the final verse breaks away from the loop, climbing higher than anything we’ve seen in the song so far. Ultimately, though, it drops back to earth and fades into the extended instrumental groove. We’ve found a new pattern, but like the old it coils back on itself. A circularity, a looping structure.

Reader average: [5.4] (5 votes)

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One Response to “Lucy Dacus – Hot & Heavy”

  1. Is this not the same exact melody as the song the daughter sang in “Moneyball”?