The “euphoric dancefloor” and “emo bedroom solitude”– they’re polar opposites on a spectrum of emotion. It seems paradoxical to place the two words in a sentence together, but MUNA challenges logic and a specious world by capturing both on their debut, “About U.” Their rendition of ’80s synth pop is definitely not avant-garde or an anomaly in the grand scheme of music, but their first LP is startling for any new artist.
Naivete is bounded to mere seconds on the 12-song album, and lyricism gazes past a facade of puppy love for reality while still maintaining inclusivity. “About U” is a rollercoaster, from the exhilaration of self-determining choruses to the hell of an abusive relationship, MUNA maintaining elocution throughout its entirety while delineating love’s blight and bliss.
The trio circumvents the vapid, formulaic anthem in exchange for one with substance, which even functions as a response to the odious Orlando tragedy. Poise is present as lead singer Katie Gavin reassures victims of the mass shooting, “I can feel the bruises, yellow, dark blue, and black/ But, baby, a bruise is only your body trying to keep you intact.” She’s able to address both sides of the coin, the optimism and the pessimism, and string them together to create a message driven by hope and memories; conquering adversity comes with scars that are symbols of triumph, not pejoration.
The sensibility of the lines are additionally germane to the wounds of an ex-lover; MUNA’s utilization of gender-neutral pronouns enable them to reach the broken hearts of anyone and everyone who’s ever been enamored, in spite of boundless genders and sexualities. Bereft of that notorious vacuity associated with “feel-good” songs propelled solely on fast-pace instrumentation, MUNA has exemplified a band above blasé expectations on the album’s third track, “I Know A Place.”
“I told a lot of lies/ And called it a compromise/ To keep you in your seat.”
The opening assertion to “Promise” is overflowing with the cynicality of love, but the bleak reality climaxes during the bridge. “Mean-hearted girls will kill their loves to hurt themselves./ They can’t believe that they deserve anything else,” Gavin declares over sparse production.
MUNA shatters the glass ceiling of love’s idealism too many rising artists become confined to, distinguishing themselves as a recherché band who can tackle the self-deprecation that dictates the minds of adolescents globally. Of course, addressing social issues is not something unprecedented.
From household names like Kendrick Lamar, to cult singer Fiona Apple, numerous artists, without fail, integrate the tribulations of racism or rape as subjects into their songs to empower individuals or raise awareness. It’s the fact that MUNA has found such a voice during the formative stages of their career that surmounts them to something more than just another new singer finding their way in the world; the band is articulate in “Promise” and its theme of self-esteem, where many artists fall short of even creating a paragraph with personality for Mental Health Awareness Month.
“End of Desire” gleams with the sheen of a diamond as “About U” begins to conclude, the tenth track strung together by the poetry of passion and compromise: “Taking all I have left/ In exchange for a death/ That is painless, that will make me new.” The cruelty of love is too often portrayed with myopia, dwelling solely on an irrevocable pain. MUNA, though? An exception to the cliché. The band is able to perceive how love is transformative, simultaneously a death sentence of ignorance and a lesson in self-sacrifice. A relationship is greater than its toxicity or exhilarance; love is blind to judgement, right or wrong, and MUNA captures this idea in 12 tracks of eloquence, propelling synths, and stripped down atmospheres of sentiment.
(Album rating: 8.0)