review: sorry mom, babyface (2023)

ratig: hella good + i've listened at least 20 times

bandcamp | spotify

ok so truth is i don't really know much about music. i have pretty good tone recognition, learned a few songs on violin/studied it for about a year (as a 10-year-old), and have long held a penchant for listening to unconventional music. that's not me understating myself, those three facts are truly the limit of my musical background. (i have been to THREE concerts, going as far back as 2 months ago). nevertheless, i'm not commenting on this album based on its musical qualities—somebody else can do that, i don't care.[1] instead, i feel qualified to talk on this album purely on the basis of the personal resonance i feel when i listen to it. the album is all about growing up + queerness, two things that have taken precedence over nearly all else for the past eight-ish years of my life. yeah, the experiences described in the album are pretty specific to the songwriters' own life experiences, but there's a lot of beautiful sentiments that i sense within those experiences. shitty relationships and feelings of inability/disinterest to grow up ("hiccup," "getting sick"). the adoption of urban identity by kids from broken worlds ("stoop kid"). and yeah, the music is awesome. the album has a couple tracks ("You Scare Me," "wire mother" which get pretty experimental and i LIKE it. spoiler alert: this review is going to be more about me + my world than the album. :)

i really felt an attachment to the theme of growing up in this album. for one thing, it's pretty rare for music to center self-honesty. music usually makes people feel proud + powerful, emphasizes their best qualities and disregards guilt and shame. but the tone of this album is so not that. instead, the album's songs generally admit faults and flaws. i enjoyed this a lot not only because its somewhat unique, but also because it inspires realistic self-thought in me. i'm a person who is very prone to radical spirals of negative self-thought. part of it is just the natural state of my trauma-affected brain, part of it is the process of cultivating realistic self-reflection—an unavoidable part of growing up. the album's wrestling with growing up is, in part, a conversation on queerness. sorry mom is a VERY queer band, and i don't sense that there's any interest on their part in obscuring that central component of their collective character. yet, rarely do their songs tackle queerness head-on like more established queercore bands might do (which i LOVE btw). instead, queerness is more life and less words. that's not to say the bandtaylorswifts (to coin a phrase), i.e., queerbaits, their lyrics. instead, they aim with intent at a fresher less-explored side of queer experience: queer life. it sounds odd to say, but upon reflection, so much queer culture revolves around political/legal conceptions of who we are and what we are afforded. obviously political culture would become such a dominant presence in queer life, a direct result of political persecution. but there's something really special about sorry mom's appraoch to queer life.[2] the concept of "growing up," as it appears in the album, is all about the queer experience. even today, i often enter a room and feel like the most childish, naive person there. yet, there's a duality there too, because i often feel hardened by the social exclusion and bullying i experienced throughout childhood. in one moment, i'm both a child waiting to grow up, and a grown-up deprived of childhood. i'm a very tall person, and yet i often feel like the shortest person around. i attribute this to the sort of "queer growing up" which i am still doing. all this to say, the album's emphasis on "growing up" resonates a lot with my (queer) experiences, that's why i feel a special resonance with this album.

the album concludes with the song "stoop kid," which has the second-fewest listens on spotify but imo you can't really get the point of the album without listening to it (i mean yeah.. it's a conclusion). the song centers growing up more than any other song.. "i grew up in the city i'll never grow up again [...] i grew up in a broken little town, but i'll tell you i grew up in the city, yeah that's what i'll say to you [...] till it's true." ....YEAH. i feel like rn there's such a cultural emphasis on queerness and urbanity... which is like, yeah, a real thing, but highly overemphasized. for example, the u.s. southeat has about a third of all queer people in the u.s. as a queer southerner[3], i feel there's a prevailing cultural conception of places like new york city, los angeles, and san francisco as "queer epicenters"[4] which totally ignores the rural queers who have long shaped their own queer worlds completely unique from and of equal importance to the "standard queer culture." all this being said, i too am one of many queers who has a hidden rural identity and a public urban identity, adopted when i started college. it's a phenomenon all right. and yeah, for one thing urban locations (sometimes) house places (literal and figurative) of queer community.[5] moreover, queerness really comes down to an individual's right to choose attributes of their identity.[6]where i come from feels like a mix of a panopticon and the scarlet letter at all times. i lack the freedom to check in with myself about how i want to identify and express myself becaause i must constantly assess the desires of everyone staring at me. that's not how cities feel. instead, cities feel like a choose-your-own-adventure. while being openly queer might lead to violence and bad outcomes in either place, there's still a very different thought process and internal feeling when it comes to expressing queerness in a rural town as opposed to a city. i kinda wanna push back on the narrative that rural places are homophobic and cities are not, because while it is a partial truth, it's also a generalization. moreover, i think there's something deeper to it. john d'emilio would probably say something along the lines of self-expression in cities being a product of expanded choice in labor. which is cool, but i wanna explore it more.

yeah so im gonna wrap up this "review" (in which i barely talked about any music)!! i'm honestly slightly disturbed and slightly impressed by the way my writing style has become so academic lately. this is the first piece of prosewriting i've done for fun in at least 2 years, and i realize now that i've become quite the bookish writer. i'd like to work on becoming a little more brief and expressive, but writing like this feels very natural to me. i did NOT expect this review, which was basically just gonna say how much i enjoy this album (and can't wait to hear more from this band :3), to develop footnotes and multiple paragraphs. i don't think all of my reviews will be like this (in fact i hope not), but i'm glad i trusted whatever urge i felt to make this such a production, because it's good to follow your gut when writing. if i hadn't, i wouldn't have stumbled upon all this knowledge which was IN my brain but not really present with me in the moment. now i can take this queer history stuff and apply it to something more relevant. :3 if ur reading this... thank u so much !!!!

1: i'm a poet, so yeah the lyrics hold some special significance. but to be honest i feel like i understand words and the rhythm of natural and poetic language very differently than most people. when i listen to someone reading a poem, i usually miss the shiny moments of emphasis, and instead notice much subtler interactions between words across the poem. i think its because i didn't learn to read like most people did (i learned primary from gba pokemon games) and the relationshop between my written language and my spoken language has always felt kinda different to me than how others express it. you might call it neurodiversity, you might say im talking nonsense; all this to say, lyrics don't usually deliver as much of a direct experience as an indirect feeling to me.
2: on second thought, i think this is kinda ass. i'm onto something about tackling the less-political dimensions of queer existence, but i don't think it's accurate to say that it's exclusively emphasized in sorry mom's music. their music captures a much wider scope of queerness than i intially gave it credit for.
3: to be perfectly clear, i don't think any of the members of sorry mom are from the south.
4: fortherecord.. i hate this phrase. i've seen it used widely in academia and i think it needs to be challenged, bc like... queerness is not spread person-to-person like a disease. it's an attribute acquired through self-reflection and bodily autonomy.
5: i like to use the term "counterpublics" to describe these places in my research, see Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics (New York, NY: Zone Books, 2010).
6: as much as i'm a little weirded out by some of his conclusions, John D'Emilio's "Capitalism and Gay Identity" covers this with a lot of critical thought (and is kind of an unignorable work in the field of queer history). read it here.

babyface was released on may 12, 2023 under brandy melville records. this review written june 2023