Friday, December 17th, 2021

Self Esteem – I Do This All The Time

We continue with Self Esteem, on self esteem…


Vikram Joseph: Rebecca Taylor’s first album as Self Esteem was awash with jarring production choices (sparse and dense, often in the same song), off-kilter rhythms and strange orchestral flourishes. It was kind of magical to hear pop that was so addictive despite sounding so different from everything else. And then there’s “I Do This All The Time,” a comeback single that shifted the goalposts entirely. Yes, there are the “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Suncreen)” comparisons — I mean, sure, it’s a spoken word song with life advice — and there’s more than a little bit of “The Facts Of Life” in there (not least in the string stabs on the chorus). But gosh, it still sounds absolutely singular. Taylor starts off sounding like she’s talking to herself in the shower and ends with a monologue that’s both sharply personal and gloriously inclusive — a narrative about failed relationships and the male gaze and guilt and expectations, all of those things and none of them. There are so many iconic, quotable lines — try “Don’t be embarrassed that all you’ve had is fun” and “One day I would love to tell you how the best night of your life was the absolute worst of mine,” which kind of stand in contradiction to each other, but of course that’s sort of the point. The music feels secondary — soulful trip-hop that caresses the corners of Taylor’s words — until it’s not, as warm strings that feel just like summer breezes swoop around the outro, giving her narrative a glow of redemption that the lyrics don’t entirely corroborate. But sometimes the memory of painful, unresolved things gets burnished with the passing of time. The emotional climax of the song is Taylor’s declaration that “it was really rather miserable trying to love you.” Realising that is a sort of freedom in itself.

Ian Mathers: Society if my generation had had this song instead of “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Managed to get me and lose me an impressive number of times for a song that’s only five minutes long. It’s self-satisfied and blandly confessional and sentimental in a way that reminds me of Instagram infographics, and yet I still come out liking it more than I don’t for reasons I can barely understand myself. Maybe it’s that it ends well, closing out its last minute with a clarity of purpose that the rest lacks.

Jonathan Bradley: “One day I would love to tell you how the best night of your life was the absolute worst of mine,” monologues Rebecca Taylor, which is a devastating reveal that ends up revealing nothing. Taylor does a lot of revealing nothing in her soliloquy — an approach that doesn’t work with spoken word, because the form demands a narrative cohesion that pop lyrics are allowed to elide. Sure, this is “relatable,” in the way that one knows it is “relatable” to be in your 30s and watching your friends get married or have children while you quote-unquote “prioritise pleasure” — the Guardian will take 800 words, please. But speaking that aloud doesn’t really mean much beyond the fact that it has now been spoken aloud. The instrumental, an afterthought, evokes the trip-hop anomie of the 1990s, only it disavows the ’90s irony that usually accompanied it. The resulting plain-spokenness should be arresting, but rather it’s just disengaged.

Katherine St Asaph: I bet you hadn’t thought of the phrase “slam poetry” in a while, either.

Nortey Dowuona: Rebecca seems at first half hearted. Then, when her echoes peal into the air, she becomes more and more confident and poised until the string and piano close around her hands, which she lifts as she sings her echoes into the sky.

Iain Mew: “I Do This All The Time” covers so much ground, both musically and narratively, that the sprawl is somewhat compelling in its own right. The sharpest bits, though, are the second-person advice in the second verse that made me think of another track with loose music and spoken life advice. The mission statement bit in that one verse is the only thing that really fits, though, and even without the resemblance, I think I would find it a stumbling block. It’s too big an idea for the song to move on and not leave me wishing it was explored in full.

Alfred Soto: I might feel kinder toward these bumper stickers if Tinashe sung this.

Edward Okulicz: The observations are no sharper than anything on your friends’ social media, the chorus is significantly blunter than that, and musically it’s very basic, which just highlights the ordinariness of it all. 15 years ago it might have been a bit more interesting, but there’ve been sharper and rawer use of monologue and observation in the last few years.

Claire Biddles: I don’t dislike this song as much as I dislike the discourse around it. Like so much ~millennial women’s culture~ it is one person’s experience presented (or accepted) as everyone’s, but half a decade after the Messy White Woman became a defining cultural figure, it’s not just relatable by accident, it feels relatable by committee, which means no mystery or particularity. Almost every line could be a tweet by a London media person, which is fine for the internet, but it’s not enough for art. Feeling bad for not going to someone’s birthday drinks, amirite ladies?! Not looking at your phone for a minute, ha ha ha!! Is this all there is? The chorus just about works as a soaring mantra, but the other stabs at emotional mic-dropping are either glib or overworked (“It was really rather miserable trying to love you”). I’m about the same age as Rebecca Taylor, and I guess I too never thought I would live this long. But as someone who still struggles with, um, self-permanence, I think that telling myself “all the days that you get to have are big” would just make me feel worse about the majority of small, sad days one has to get through to just stay alive. It’s perhaps unfair to treat a pop song this literally, but listening to “I Do This All The Time” feels like I’m being forced to relate, to join hands in some cathartic ritual, but I feel nothing. Maybe just tired. 

Reader average: [8] (3 votes)

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