youtube user ‘nadia’ – “somebody else” by the 1975 but you’re crying in the bathroom of a party [youtube, 2019]

youtube user ‘nadia’
“somebody else” by the 1975 but you’re crying in the bathroom of a party
[uploaded May 23, 2019]

This is likely old news to everyone, but I only recently discovered the trend of pop songs, “…but you’re crying in the bathroom of a party”. It’s a simple technique: take a pop song, low pass filter it to mimic being in another room, and applying a little reverb to wash out the sound. Some variants include a crowd, some include the door close as the listener enters the bathroom, etc. 

I don’t often listen to pop music (my own failing), but to me this speaks to the essence of pop music. Pop music isn’t there to make some radical claim about the world; it’s there to give voice to a feeling, experience, sentiment. The cynic in me wants to say this is due to marketability, but I don’t think that’s entirely the case; there’s a real value in providing approachable, pleasurable songs that speak to something of the human condition. And I think one important effect of this is to give guideposts to memory and history. I can still recall songs from when I was younger that I associate with a time, a place, and an emotion. When the song comes on, I’m immediately thrown (usually unconsciously, even against my will!) back to that moment. Not just as a distant memory, but in that moment I become that person again; I feel that joy, pain, whatever emotion I associate with the song, as acutely as if I were actually there again.

I think this video, and others in the genre, encapsulates this ephemeral phenomenon, using sadness and melancholy (in addition to nostalgia) as the vessel of the emotional response. To me, it gives voice to something I have a hard time explaining or capturing in words. And although at first blush it seems to indulge in a certain depression, we don’t listen to sad songs to feel sadder—sometimes the opposite. Not that it heals, necessarily, but it forms a solidarity or understanding between the song and the listener. “This song speaks to me”. And I think this solidarity is reflected in the comments of these videos (a screenshot below). There is a common understanding, a common thread through individual and disparate experience. Who hasn’t felt the sting of being spurned, or of making a mistake?

A close friend of mine said this about the video above, and I think it’s too beautiful not to include here:

“No room for interpretation. You are listening to this outside with a cigarette and you’re sad. Great power in that. Weird how our understanding of that space is so unrelated to the song. It’s from where we stood when we listened to it. Outside, alone, having it forced upon you in this semi-safe space. Like a skylight for your heart. …”

screenshot taken May 8, 2021