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Music Culture cheat sheet: Doja Cat, “I Am Not Okay With This,” and more

Mar. 2, 2020
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Listen: “Say So” by Doja Cat

There’s no better time than now to assert the notion that an artist’s work, once published, is no longer in their hands. In the era of micro-content creators, where the line between performer and audience is not so much blurred as much as completely obliterated, a song’s potential for virality is now something many artists are tapping into. This happened last year with Lizzo, with her song “Truth Hurts” going viral on TikTok two years after its initial release. Now, thanks to the same app, Doja Cat released “Say So,” the fifth track on her sophomore studio album Hot Pink, as a radio single, accompanied by a groovy, ‘70s-themed video that enamored the entire Internet. 

While the track itself is already worthy of acclaim, with Doja’s airy vocals perfectly balancing out the pulse of the synth beats, it owes a great portion of its popularity to TikTok user Haley Sharpe, whose choreography of the song transformed it into a dance craze that even people outside the app can recognize. Doja acknowledges this—much to the pleasure of Twitter—and does the dance herself, with Sharpe appearing in the video as well. She has long proven her versatility—I don’t know anyone else who could have pulled off her other viral hit, “Mooo!”—and with this video, she’s proven that her artistry can roll with the waves of her listenership as well. 

Watch the music video for “Say So” here.Listen: “Garden Song” by Phoebe Bridgers

The older I get, the more convinced I am that girl teenhood is just one long montage scored by a Phoebe Bridgers song. Her lyrics, at first, seem like diary entries, until you notice her idiosyncrasies and deem them more similar to dreams—until you listen a few times more and realize they’re anatomy, human parts, the unconscious, visceral, and deep, deep, deep within. Bridgers is the spokesperson of the human psyche, the literal inner voice, and in “Garden Song” she sings of longing for a future that operates more like a fantasy than a time to come.

Her ability to transmit such specific emotion remains unmatched; her use of imagery will never fail to feel relatable, even if it seems outlandish on the surface. The instrumentals are relatively more subdued and the music video is just Bridgers ripping a bong in her pajamas, so her haunting vocals are pushed to center stage. With the lyrics floating around the ether of the melody, it’s hard not to feel like you’re being pushed into an alternate dimension altogether, where it’s easy to imagine the skinhead neighbor and liver-checking doctors she sings about.

Watch the music video for “Garden Song” here

Binge: I Am Not Okay With This

Everything has been leading up to this: from the director of *spins wheel* The End of the F****** World comes the newest Netflix offering you can digest in one satisfying sitting, featuring the *throws darts at a board* kids from It in a world in the same vein as Stranger Things and the same setting ambiguity (and sweater budget) as Sex Education. But while it can be hard to look past the fact that the show’s elements are pieces of programs you’ve already binged that have been sutured together, I Am Not Okay With This proves to be charming, heartfelt, and, by the last episode, extremely gripping. 

Sophia Lillis is at the center, effortlessly carrying the entire project. The biggest upside of having an oversaturated coming-of-age media market is the surplus of talented young actors, Lillis being a (fairly quiet) frontrunner. She’s finally given nuanced, expansive material she can sink her teeth into, and never for a moment does she disappoint. The show is relatively micro compared to previous teen-centric cultural obsessions which host ensembles (again, It, Stranger Things, Sex Education, among others), and in its smaller scale is the opportunity to get more things right. They finally cast actual teenagers for teenage roles (Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden of TEOTFW are 24 and 27, respectively), and while I stand by the belief that British actors are much better at the awkward, puberty-driven kind of acting, no one does it like actual awkward, puberty-driven actors. 

While it can be true that, at first, the only thing this show has going for it is its link to other more well-known shows, it won’t take too long for your curiosity to turn into actual interest, then fondness. Watch for the lighthearted, well-made, ‘80s-infused teen drama, and stay for the pining lesbian with telekinetic powers in love with her best friend.

I Am Not Okay With This is streaming on Netflix now.