The XX demonstrates modern love songs at their best
March 1, 2017
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The XX exhibits the complexities of love on their newest album “I See You.” This album refrains from black and white thinking, neither demonizing or celebrating the idea of love. Instead, it explores the grey areas of love, such as loving someone you should not, hiding your emotions from your partner, and dealing with the realization that you cannot have a person “on hold.”
The XX truly encapsulates the sound of complicated love on their newest effort. They are able to achieve such complexity through not only their choice of lyrics, but their vocal tone.
Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft offer a vocal tone that is sultry, yet wholeheartedly earnest. Their dueling vocals also offer a certain tone to their music; sometimes they sound like two halves of a relationship pleading with each other, and on other songs they sound like two friends in a similar situation empathizing with each other.
The instrumentals on this album also enhance the meaning behind the lyrics. This can be seen demonstrated on the track “Performance,” a song sung by Croft about masking her true emotions in a relationship by putting on a “brave face.” As Croft begins to sing the beginning of the chorus, “I’ll put on a performance,” the background music is temporarily simplified to the lone plucking of a guitar. This exemplifies the loneliness Croft is feeling when disguising her feelings. As the song goes on, there is a striking and repetitive violin playing the same chord over and over. It starts out soft, but continues to become louder and more distorted. It sounds like the violin is beginning to breakdown and cry; something Croft is unable to do in her relationship.
Another example of the instrumentals complimenting the theme of the lyrics is on the single of this album, “On Hold.” The lyrics of “On Hold” refer to the naïve idea that you can always be able to get back together with someone you have broken up with.
Within this track, there is the realization of naivety of this idea, both within the lyrics and the instrumentals. This track is one of the most upbeat on the album. The song even features a sample of the notoriously cheesy music duo Hall & Oats in the chorus. All these details juxtaposed with the lyrics create an anthem dedicated to inexperienced love.
I think one thing this effort truly accomplishes is that there is no monotony from song to song. Though there is a distinguished theme throughout the album, the tracks are not repetitive, neither in terms of lyrics or sound.
I applaud The XX for offering a unique point of view on a topic that has been sung about since the dawn of music itself.