Love, we all want it. Also, to some extent, we have to give it. The conventional understanding, reiterated by both the Beatles and Nora Ephron is that love taken also has to be clearly given. That's just being fair. Which makes exploring the chasms of unrequired feelings always feel, well, a little dangerous. There's Elvis and the Fine Young Cannibals going crazy, there's Joni Mitchell having her heart broken. But in today's age of swipeable agency, why go through the trouble? The pop songbook, of course, squirms at the presence of something so unromantic; today's hits tackle themes like being sorry and lying without asking what the relationships we're talking about in the first place.
On her latest single, Alex Sloane lays down the law almost as soon as her synthy whips hit the floor: "I eat boys like you for breakfast, don't you know?" She's a character that's half-Tarantino, half-Mean Girls: the bully at the school yard reinterpreted as a heterosexual fantasy instead of a cautionary tale about homoerotics. The woozy kick drums that clutter "Puppy Love" lull you pleasantly along to Sloane's beckoning siren. I imagine hearing this song while looking through expensive clothes at a Topshop, unbothered by either frightening price tags or threats to my masculinity pleasantly cooed by the LA-based singer. "'Puppy Love' is about ego and the games two people play," Ms. Sloane tells us through her publicist.
The last time BDSM was on my radar, it was Jamie Dornan holding the whips, so it means something when Ms. Sloane is the one leading her lover by a leash in the song's music video--directed by Will DaRosa, who had priviously directed a number of music videos for a since-disbanded Oakland heavy metal unit called Lionheart. In the video, Ms. Sloane carries around her lover, played by Victor Pimentel, like the Californian of the popular imagination, say Paris Hilton, carrying around a chihuahua or a pooch. The image of the well-toned body of privilege carrying such animals has long been subject of satirical scorn and Ms. Sloane's manual possession of the narrative's figurative language (she throws him a bone, she has him by a leash) makes the effort look like a deconstructed Nickelback music video, that genre oddly specific enough to be recently satirized in Netflix's reboot of Mr. Show.
But the singer whose world Ms. Sloane is most interested in exploring, as her twitter presence will testify, is that of her state's recent migrant: Lana Del Rey and her infinite cool. Hair perpetually in the wind, Del Rey's version of pop trades in pure atmospheric bulk. She is never pinning for love, outright, but instead names an album after it. Both singers are masters of worlds whose relations are always ironized—Ms. Del Rey's 'daddy' or Ms. Sloane's 'puppy'—but carry hands outreached for some connection. Unlike Lana, however, Ms. Sloane is comfortable with the pop vocabulary that her music insists on. Where Honeymoon tethered itself to trip-hop, "Puppy Love" soars into the pop soundscape, comfotably jarring its brutally real ironies next to the psudo-sincere whine of Swedish percussion.
Andrew Karpan debates dichotomies all the time, like it's nothing. You can too, when you follow him on Twitter.
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