Tove Lo – “Stay High (Habits Remix)”
In my quest to find the ultimate 2014 summer song, I’d finally hit rock bottom, breaking down and asking my high school students for the answers. They found this curious displacement of roles hilarious, further cementing that though I’m “the cool teacher,” this doesn’t save me from being hopelessly out of touch. Their pitiable glances produced a somber list of just three songs. I’d already reviewed “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea. And after rejecting the horror that is the band 5 Seconds of Summer, I launched into the final song on the list: “Stay High” by Tove Lo. I was touched the tragic fragility of the song and video, and I believe they work seamlessly as expressions of one another, twined around the main idea: that people escape, through almost any means necessary, the pain of a broken heart. The video chooses mainly alcohol as the visual metaphor to approximate the lyrical content; of course, any substance could have stood in here. The camera follows, closely and in front, the gorgeous young Swede as a stand-in for any loveburnt soul; combined with lyrics like “can’t go home alone again/need someone to numb the pain” and “try all the time/to keep you off my mind,” an obsessive quality takes hold. The video makes use of time distortion to accentuate the endless feeling that being heartbroken gives, the cycles of destructive routine that appear to give order. While the lyrics aren’t terribly complex, they achieve the stark beauty of truth, and that is their strength. The sonic makeup of the song isn’t incredibly varied either, yet its insistence on returning to the same loops and beats hearkens to the thematic idea that we circle obsessively around our own idea of love. And sometimes it becomes impossible to escape. While this song isn’t one to jam at the poolside, its hypnotic qualities lend it that summer-night dance feel, something to slink to as the humid night draws dark over the moon.
Jonathan May watches too much television, but he’s just playing catch-up from a childhood spent in Zimbabwe. You can read his poetry at owenmay.com, follow him on Twitter at @jonowenmay, or email him at email@example.com