Wednesday, August 31st, 2022

Steve Lacy – Bad Habit

We Jukeboxers are not long for guitar heroes.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Steve Lacy got popular as a solo act off a series of iPhone demos, and even as he’s moved to increasingly complex studio compositions he’s not managed to shrug off the feeling that he’s making sketches rather than songs. He’s not a virtuoso in either the complimentary (Prince, Joni) or derogatory (Yngwie Malmsteen, Jacob Collier) ways, but something in between — so obviously gifted with melody and guitar arrangement that his songwriting has not had to evolve much since the middle of the last decade. Yet you can’t really blame him for not making a masterpiece yet; “Bad Habit”, even with all of its lazy rhymes and simplistic riffing, still shines as a fitfully perfect bauble of a pop song, a track that dances on the edge of glory with every guitar strum but never quite reaches it.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: One of the first blurbs I wrote for TSJ was on a Readers’ Week post for Thundercat’s “Them Changes.” I wasn’t a fan, but things changed after “Dragonball Durag“; I appreciated how his NAMM-ready jazz-funk could serve as a distinct conduit for playfulness. I always thought the first Steve Lacy track I’d like would be a similar deal, where his straightforward songwriting, endearingly imperfect vocals and subpar lyrics could become transcendent through the almighty power of lo-fi production. He gets there with “Bad Habit,” a track that wields his familiar DIY stylings but ensures every little moment is part of a larger tapestry (a mere “vibe” this is not). The key is the mid-song switch-up, unfurling the hook-laden first half into a sincere call to fuck. It’s his slickest song.

Alfred Soto: A pleasant soft-focus R&B track anchored to the wunderkind’s goofy multi-track vocals. The less attention paid to lines about biting a lover’s tongue the better.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: The evolution from “I bite my tongue, it’s a bad habit” to “Uh, can I bite your tongue like my bad habit?” is delectable. Steve Lacy has SZA’s talent for writing music that sounds both like dialogue and something ripped straight from a diary. (Or maybe it’s Taylor Swift’s: “Let’s fuck in the back of the mall, lose control” sounds suspiciously like “Meet me behind the mall.”) I can only imagine the hold this song will have during cuffing season.

Thomas Inskeep: This Anderson .Paak-ish R&B is delightful because of its off-kilter-ness: the way Lacy plays with the beat, the way he occasionally slips into a near-falsetto, the repeated “it’s biscuits, it’s gravy” lyric. “Bad Habit” fucks with form and genre for not just Lacy’s enjoyment, but ours, too, and ends up sounding ridiculously fresh.

Alex Ostroff: Wistful queer longing, languid like Rihanna’s Tame Impala cover, with some looseness reminiscent of Miguel doing Prince. It takes deliberate thought to smoothly morph the arrangement multiple times over the course of four minutes, but somehow “Bad Habit” sounds effortless and spontaneous instead of overcooked. Lacy pines and wishes he’d been bolder in his pursuit of love, but this is the type of unassuming joint you’re likely to underrate and put on in the background until it’s crept up on you and claimed your heart.

Michael Hong: The trick to “Bad Habit” is how it cuts the first line to make you feel like you missed the step, like you should be catching up to Lacy as he rambles about a missed connection. It’s disappointing, then, when he cuts the atmosphere, leaving you feeling like you’ve finally caught up and all he’s got is inattentive advice, a contradictory deflection through the warbled voice cracks of someone too young to truly miss out.

Al Varela: There’s something so deliciously infectious about the way Steve Lacy sings “I wish I knew you wanted me”. It’s a lyric that’s been stuck in my brain ever since I first heard it. It matches the mix of euphoria and disappointment that comes with learning someone was interested in you, but it’s been long enough that they’ve moved on from it. In a way, the song almost feels like a dream — especially with the languid guitar and squealing synths giving a very lax, lovestruck feel you can only get with unrequited (re-requited?) love. Plus, the switch-up at the end with the buzzy percussion that almost sounds like beatboxing is a great change of pace. It reminds me a lot of Flower Boy, actually. An album he was in this whole time, in fact! Always exciting to see a longtime artist and collaborator catch their big break with an outstanding song.

Oliver Maier: Lacy might be one of the most influential artists of the last half-decade, his particular flavour of ear candy now the de facto sound for a good chunk of bedroom pop. You can trace it back further — the lo-fi nonchalance from Blood Orange, the reverby guitars from Mac DeMarco — but Lacy’s meat-and-potatoes approach was the easiest to emulate, and so it flourished. “Bad Habits”, like much of his subsequent output, is the sound of Lacy unable or unwilling to surface from under his own tidal wave. He doesn’t convince me that he cared about this relationship much. That’s okay. He’s not trying to.

Ian Mathers: Subtly, this is a real power move — to go from “I wish I knew you wanted me” to “let’s fuck in the back of the mall” without ever sounding like you’re breaking a sweat or are even too concerned with the outcome. Everything just feels laid-back, in a way where you can imagine it’d be easy to go along with him.

Nortey Dowuona: No this site was too good for me, my dear.

Reader average: [4.5] (4 votes)

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

Comments are closed.