Thursday, January 13th, 2022

GAYLE – abcdefu

So two weeks into January, let’s get on with hits we missed while we stopped to review the year that was. Obviously that means this.


Katherine St Asaph: H-I-J-K-L-M-NO.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: So breathtakingly inept that I pulled over and just listened the first time I heard this on the radio. Deserves to be studied in a lab as a cautionary tale in grey-market Olivia Rodrigo knockoffs — and I almost finished this blurb there but the badness of this song overwhelms me days later. It’s a song completely bereft of both new ideas and new executions of old ideas, driven by a hook that wasn’t even clever when Blackbear did it twice. It’s pop punk sapped of all of its intensity and even its inchoate emotions; even in the “angrier” cut, Gayle sounds washed out and affectless, unable to overcome the feeble bonds of faux-Travis-Barker-revival synths with any sincere feeling beyond a self-satisfaction with her own cleverness.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: I know that we rate songs and not their origin stories, but I can’t help but feel particularly burned at learning that the massive TikTok success behind “abcdefu” was the result of an alleged industry plant. (I have yet to see reporting on this — so if I’m off-base, call me out!) The novelty of this song’s chorus is kitchy but genuinely interesting; learning that it’s blown up as the result of a manufactured narrative can’t help but cast it in an unnecessarily cynical light. 

Ian Mathers: Well, it’s nice that she’s giving the dog a pass.

Jessica Doyle: There are so many things to dislike about this song — the turgid beat, the unlikable singing, the juvenile tone, and the way the bowdlerized radio version takes the song’s one quarter-hearted attempt at wit and renders it nonsensical — that at first I was going to dismiss it as merely inessential, rather than call it loathsome and risk paying it a compliment. But I’m typing this while sitting at the desk I bought off my neighbor, a sweet and genial man who sells second hand furniture out of his garage, and so the last two points come off for the classism of “Craigslist couch.”

Rodrigo Pasta: A lot could go wrong here — and a lot, indeed, does. The production drains out any color the guitars or the drums could have, and instead, we get some grey mush that doesn’t evoke anything, not even a state of mind like anger or bitterness; it’s just dry. Meanwhile, it’s clear GAYLE is still on her first, early singles, and she wears her vocal influences on her sleeve, to the point where they seem to harm the song; more direct enunciation and a more straightforward delivery would have helped it greatly. Her songwriting is limited, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she had a rougher cut of the lyrics that was polished by her label to make it more radio-friendly. I say this because I like to think a 17 year old in 2021 wouldn’t write “Everybody but your dog, you can all fuck off” which is more related to the 2013 “i hate everything but dogs and pizza” Tumblr hellhole (unless, of course, Gen Z is becoming a Millennial retread, and wouldn’t that be ironic!). And one final thing: I’m OK with “f you,” but “f off?” Too many f’s in a row, it’s redundant. Now, despite all that, the song achieves a couple of things. GAYLE manages to tell a proper post-break up story with the sort of dime-a-dozen details such as “you dated a girl I hate for the attention,” and “you told everyone I’m a bitch” that, placed in the right order, can paint an efficient story. But she doesn’t sound all that angry or all that happy, this is mostly a final goodbye before she gets it out of her mind, which is a fine change of pace for the mainstream. Some vocal moments are both melodic and sentimental (“I was into youuuu but I’m over it now”), a fine implication that the scars are still somewhat there. And there’s a brash pop hook that will carry her through festivals for the rest of her life. If only she leaned into her higher range more often, because there’s potential there (if it doesn’t lead us into a road of pointless aggression, of course).

Andrew Karpan: Pop-punk stadium riffs brought to life with the kind of profound wisdom that animated early hits by the far older and dumber Chainsmokers; the good news is that after making literally the biggest record in the world, the obviously talented GAYLE will surely be able to make almost anything else and perhaps explore more colorful corners of the alphabet.

Madi Ballista: I love a good breakup anthem, and this is a good breakup anthem. GAYLE’s almost drawling vocals are dripping with vitriol, and the heart of the lyrical concept is delightfully, refreshingly juvenile: there is something immensely satisfying about the echoing, crowd-like chant of the chorus. It’s the kind of comprehensive catharsis that comes from writing a furious LiveJournal entry packaged in a storm of dreamy guitars and muted drums perfect for putting on loop. The vocal melody has a compelling momentum that pulls you from one line to the next, hanging on her every bitter word. And it’s a little thing, but I really find myself tickled that she explicitly spares the dog from the litany of “fuck you”s. Somehow that really makes this track for me.

Leah Isobel: Why open with “fuck” and then regress back to just the first letter? What’s the point? Why mention his art with no elaboration? What’s wrong with getting a couch from Craigslist (provided it’s clean and doesn’t have bedbugs)? Why the sudden pathos when talking about never seeing his friends again? If he dated someone else for the attention, how did they make it to two dates? Wouldn’t one be enough? This needs some workshopping — ABC me after class.

Reader average: [5.6] (5 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

6 Responses to “GAYLE – abcdefu”

  1. Harsher than I was expecting; I give the song more of the benefit of the doubt simply because the lack of refinement is the point. “ABC me after class” made me smile, though.

  2. hahahaha at the [1]s and [0]s

  3. I’m with Ian—the “dog” line almost single-handedly saves this

  4. Lol Katherine

  5. where was this vitriol for fucking Yard Act, I ask you

  6. everyone else commented on the couch line but seriously fuck that shit

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