Today in the UK it is one of the hottest days of the year so far. On the bus to the office this morning, I noticed how the sun reflected off the usually more sewer-grey River Thames to make it glitter in the window. I watched people on the pavement walk to work in their summer clothes. I felt warm air on shoulders I have dared to bare for the first time this year. And I can only conclude that the reason the sun has finally peeped out from behind the ominous cloud that usually looms over London is because Carly Rae Jepsen has put out a banger called "Cut to the Feeling."
The weather and this song feel like too ideal a combination: it's fortuitous when your first time hearing something is in precisely the right conditions for doing so. As a teenager, I'd choose to listen to Bright Eyes in the dark when it was raining because it was so melodramatically appropriate (also because I spent most of my teens convinced I was in a film.) Today, as an adult, I felt like the universe had aligned for me personally when I walked out of the door, stepping out into an early summer breeze, as the synths and idealism of "Cut to the Feeling" poured out of my headphones.
The song – which today gets a proper release after "unofficial" versions made their rounds online – is about being honest. "Cutting to the feeling," as Carly's lyrics would have it, is giving into your feelings and living them, and being bold about doing so. And as I listened to it this morning, the build of Carly's signature huge chorus swelling upwards and outwards in my chest, I thought that the timing of this release felt somehow apt and comforting.
The song comes at the end of a week that began with heartbreak in the music world. The Manchester bombing – which saw so many hurt or killed after an evening spent embodying the unapologetic emotionality boosted by Ariana Grande's magnificent, soaring, melodies – was an encroachment of hatred onto the fundamental humanity of pop music. We love pop because it speaks to the places in ourselves that we sometimes struggle to articulate. When written and arranged its best, it understands us. And often, finding recognition is harder than any of us would like.
In Manchester, that sense of safety was intruded upon, but to me, songs like "Cut to the Feeling" feel like a reminder of its power. I don't mean to crowbar another artist into the discussion around what has been a devastating week for Manchester, the UK and everyone affected by the horrifying attack. I do feel, though, that pop music has an ability to know you and to lift you up all at the same time. I know that music cannot bring back those who lost their lives. But it can be used to remember them – and, in particular, the very parts of themselves that they were celebrating on Monday night. Pop music might help those who were hurt by what happened, wherever that hurt lies, to heal in some small way. And both the genre itself, and the poptimism that surrounds its euphoria, is a defiant example of how an artistic expression can speak to our hearts.
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(Image via YouTube)