Wednesday, April 21, 2021

‘Smile’; A powerful Statement about Standing up Against the Norm by Wolf Alice

 After a well-deserved break, the new ‘ Wolf Alice’ single ‘Smile’ is out and taking all the attention it deserves. The single is lifted from their third album ‘Blue Weekend’ (which will be released on the 11th of June 2021), following on from ‘The Last Man on Earth’.

Let's set the scene. We are at a noisy pub; people are shouting in a rather aggressive manner at a very busy barwoman who seems fed up. The first notes sound, a guitar riff that due to its texture, cannot be easily identified as such. The sound is then topped up with powerful drums having us thinking that this one won’t be what we‘ve been used to listening to from ‘Wolf Alice’ . 

The band have released hard-sounding songs in the past, but this one’s baseline and power drums remind us more of the metal aesthetic. The voice then enters, its whispery, confessional quality is compelling and really not unlike other ‘Wolf Alice’ tracks.

The lyrics immediately make some links to the women's movement for equal rights. Themes like the right to be ‘sensitive’, the problematic link between ‘madness’ and women (‘don’t call me mad’)  when they really just are rightfully angry ( ‘there's a difference; I’m angry’) because of offensive behaviours like calling her ‘cute’ and seeing her as a ‘honeybee’ or a ‘puppet’.

The chorus is admittedly much brighter in terms of the vocals, harmony as well as the texture of the sound which is not as rough (no power drums). The lyrics do not appear aggressive (at least at first). Something however is bugging, the visuals are not brighter, the singer doesn’t appear friendlier or more inviting.  I was able to only see the shift to ‘brighter’ as irony. (‘sun and the shine, smile!’).

The ironic element of the chorus makes sense within the context of the pub and the narrative of the music video.  The main character is a barwoman who is constantly being told to ‘smile’ and be ‘friendly’ despite the poor treatment she receives from the clients. The barwoman revolts and dances wildly instead of working. The conversational, whispering voice, in this context, can be seen as the inner voice and verbalisation of the character’s thoughts; she is not a ‘honeybee’ not a ‘puppet’ not a ‘sunshine’ .

Rock style is in general a genre where we are used to seeing male singers, guitarists and composers. Ellie Rowsell’s being a woman band-lead has brought negative criticism in the past. This song is to let us know that if ‘You don’t like (her), well that isn’t fucking relevant’ and that she will be herself no matter what.

We're excited to see what Wolf Alice release next...

Image: Official Album Artwork

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