Taylor Swift’s Red (Taylor’s Version) Has A Song For Every Mood

Listen to it when you’re feeling: like you need to remember it all too well to move on.

Key lyric: “And I was never good at telling jokes, but the punch line goes, ‘I’ll get older but your lovers stay my age’ / From when your Brooklyn broke my skin and bones / I’m a soldier who’s returning half her weight / And did the twin flame bruise paint you blue? / Just between us, did the love affair maim you too?”

“All Too Well” may arguably be the best song Swift has ever written, and it’s certainly the glue that holds the heartbroken threads of Red together. How do you elevate a ballad that’s already so crammed with pain, loss, and detail? You give them the full story. Alongside haunting production from Antonoff, “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” represents a sonic fusion between the synthy and understated styles she’s explored on her most recent records Lover, Folklore, and Evermore, and she follows through on her promise to reveal every last detail. We knew he almost ran the red, but we didn’t know he had a “fuck the patriarchy” keychain, and the hurt from omissions like “I was thinking on the drive down, any time now / He’s gonna say it’s love, you never called it what it was” still ache. It’s the third verse, however, that ties the story of Red together, as Swift recounts the birthday party where it fell apart (her dad told her “It’s supposed to be fun turning 21”) — a story previously explored on album track “The Moment I Knew” — and absolves herself of this heartbreak. Its haunting outro seems to find a new sense of peace in the relationship’s end, like she’s exhausted herself retelling it. She seems stronger from the heartbreak as she repeats, “It was rare, you remember it” before fading into silence at, you guessed it, 10 minutes and exactly 13 seconds.

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The song that claimed the season of fall, the song that romanticized the light in the refrigerator, the song that has left us feeling OK but not fine at all is back and longer than ever. Coming in at a painstaking 10 minutes and, you guessed it, 13 seconds, the newly released Taylor’s Version of “All Too Well” is the result of Swifties begging Taylor Swift to crush their hearts even more by unearthing this hidden gem from the vault. And she did not disappoint.

Beginning with a chilling spin on the original melody, the guitar strings cut through that familiar sound that we know, dare I say, all too well, and sets up what will become a carefully crafted roller coaster of emotional heartbreak and meticulous storytelling. Swift pleads her vivid lyrics with a deeper voice, controlling inflection, and jarring details — leaving nothing to the imagination of what a 21-year-old Taylor was going through as she wrote these words in her journal over a decade ago.

There are a ton of new lyrics to unpack in this version of one of Swift’s most acclaimed songs, but the most hurtful one of all might just be, “You said if we had been closer in age, maybe it would have been fine, and that made me want to die.” That’s something we would expect from the song that also gave us, “You call me up again just to break me like a promise / So casually cruel in the name of being honest.” —Alissa Godwin

Head In The Clouds Filled An Entire Stadium With Asian Joy

By Kelly Nguyen

To experience 88rising’s recent Head in the Clouds festival was to feel pure jubilance. Bursting through sunny, sublime skies on November 6 and 7 was history in the making: Every space inside Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Stadium was interwoven with Asians and Asian Americans owning their power. In the middle of the gathering, an Asian plaza-inspired sign directed crowds to the heart and soul of the festival — Asian-owned restaurants and businesses. The smell of Bopomofo’s spicy Sichuan wafted through the air as festival-goers — dressed in everything from Joji’s Pink Guy skin-tight bodysuit to an outfit designed after the national flag of the Philippines — excitedly lined up.

The nucleus of this was the 88rising label, which first organized the fest in 2018 as a celebration of what it means to truly, unquestionably be proud of our identities. Asian storytellers are often forced to be simultaneously the creators and heroes of our own tales. As a result, the music company encourages artists to pen their own, pushing boundaries so Asian narratives properly come to the forefront of the conversation.

This constant battle of ensuring Asian art and lives are visible — this fight to be seen — can be suffocating. Many of us look for the small windows where Asian stories aren’t defined solely by learning to be resilient or strong. As such, every performer made sure to inundate the stage with their prismatic fun. During headliner and early label-signee Rich Brian’s performance of flamboyant track “Edamame,” backup dancers popped and locked while dressed up as the titular soybean. Up-and-coming singer Bibi rained down condoms on her audience and kissed a female fan mid-performance, all in the name of giving people a space to simply get lost in the magic of the music.

In the midst of booming bass during headliner Saweetie’s set, she paused, glittering eyes taking in the 30,000 festival-goers with awe. She dedicated her performance to “Asian kings and queens” watching. While the crowd aggressively shook foam light sticks in their hands, she encouraged something radical — the act of learning to proudly “love yourself.” The audience erupted in noisy, unadulterated joy. The nights at Head in the Clouds always end like this: laughter, light as air, blanketed by the collective feeling the festival’s very name conjures.

“This community has been built up from literally the ground up,” headliner Niki explained to MTV News, speaking to the magic in the atmosphere. “It’s just really cool to see a familial bond between artists, artists’ fans, artists’ company … It just feels really tight-knit and like a real community.” Backstage before their big performances, she along with Head in the Clouds’s other star Indonesian performers Rich Brian and Warren Hue take us through their journeys standing up for themselves creatively, their authenticity as creatives of color and Asian pride and joy.

MTV News: What does Asian pride and joy look like to you? 

Rich Brian: It kind of looks like what’s going on out there right now. I think it’s just like seeing this many people, and there’s so many Asian people just being able to express themselves. Watching a lot of people that are also expressing themselves is really cool, and just seeing that influence happen right in front of you. I don’t go out much. I’m a very homebody-type person. But I love doing Head in the Clouds because every year, I get to see this happen in front of me.

Niki: I think it’s just all of us celebrating who we are, via food, via music, via celebrating each other. As a diaspora, especially because we’re like a minority within a majority culture, I think it’s so important to uplift each other and kind of just have that spirit of like, we’re all in this together. And I’ve seen that a lot within my own friends. I think a common misconception is that I’m Asian American, but I’m literally an Indonesian person that moved to America. So my experience differs from, you know, my friends who are first-gen, second-gen Asian Americans. And yet, there’s still this kind of overlap in terms of the Asian experience in America. I think it’s just so beautiful, just as it is. I think we just need to celebrate one another.

MTV News: How do you feel now, looking at the crowd and seeing everyone excited to see you perform? 

Brian: It felt great, man. That was crazy. That was my first time performing since 2019, and it was crazy. Especially like, you know, after not seeing that happen for two years. Just seeing that in front of me — this so far was my most surreal-feeling show. I think the most surreal [performance] was this show, and then my first show ever. Usually when I perform, I’m very present. I’m very there and I know that I’m performing. I know that that’s what I’m doing. But then, when I was doing my set last night, I just remember being three or four songs deep, and I’ll still be like, wait — I’m performing right now. I would just go somewhere, then come back, mentally. And it just took a lot to process. But it was insane.

Warren Hue: This is my first time performing, ever. So it’s crazy, like super surreal. I used to perform with 100 people watching me, and most of them would be like, my homies, or at a club and stuff. But this is like, damn. I’m seeing people actually love the music I made when I was back home in Jakarta, in my bedroom. [This music], it’s getting transferred to like 30,000 people. That’s, like, so surreal to me. Oh my god, it feels like a dream for sure. And the feeling still lasts until now.

MTV News: Do you remember the first time you stood up for yourself creatively since joining 88rising? 

Hue: I started off just making songs on YouTube and shit, and posting it on SoundCloud. So I was just like, oh, this sounds good. I like listening to it. And I’ll just post it — weekly, monthly. And just without, you know, who cares if people don’t fuck with it? You know what I mean? Because I like it.

Brian: A part of being an artist is also just collaborating. You have to kind of trust other people’s creative decisions and perspectives. One of the first times I had to stand up for myself creatively, it was… for a music video, when I [was] in the editing room with the director. Because sometimes when you’re in that room — it’s just you and the director. And you’re staying up late at night, you’re both tired. You really don’t like the shot of yourself or how it looks, or, like, you feel like this shot really matches with the music. But then he has his own tastes. For me, [music videos] are very important to me. So I get really, really into it.

MTV News: As a creative of color, what does authenticity and overcoming failure look like to you? 

Niki: I think it took a minute for me to navigate. I’m Indonesian, but I speak English, but I live in America. I think the main takeaway from this learning journey that I’m still on is just to embrace that it all adds to my identity, as opposed to taking away from it. I think, as a 16-year-old, I was like, who am I? Am I American? I’m not American, but I speak English. And I remember just being so confused. But I think the confusion is part of the process. At the end of the day, it just adds more dimension and color to everyone. As a creative of color, I think it’s just been really cool growing into what I believe is authentic to myself and to my artistry.

MTV News: How are you taking care of yourself after your performance?

Niki: I am actually planning to go home to Indonesia in December to see my family, and I haven’t seen them since COVID. I think, like, seeing family and just kind of being back in a home environment — and when I say home, like, home has kind of a loose meaning for me now. But Indonesia is always my first home. Whenever I go back, it just resets. I’m my dad’s kid. I’m my brother’s sister. I’m just chilling and I have my cats. Going home is just always very healing for me. That’s just gonna really help me reset and also just appreciate life.

Lauren Jauregui Shows Her Own Colors

By Lucas Villa

In the three years she has spent navigating the music industry as a solo artist, Lauren Jauregui has explored new sounds and discovered the strength in her struggles. On “Colors,” a gauzy and personal new song that ends with the 25-year-old reciting a spoken-word reflection, she reveals: “Creator’s watching, I know that much / Sat me down and told me to stop watching, start doing.” These lessons, coupled with a newfound determination, encompass her intimately vulnerable debut EP, Prelude, released on November 5.

“I would say they’ve been very healing and introspective,” Jauregui says over Zoom about her solo years after her group, Fifth Harmony, went on indefinite hiatus in March 2018. “I’ve been very much in my own little cave of thoughts and experiences, and just figuring out what makes me happy, what brings me joy, and moving unapologetically in that truth.”

As she embarked on her own journey, Jauregui signed a recording contract with Columbia Records while collaborating with Steve Aoki and Halsey across EDM and dance-pop. These different songs and styles allowed her to meditate on her own identity, especially on the bisexual anthem “Strangers” with Halsey. A few months after departing 5H, Jauregui appeared as a boxer in the song’s music video. Like two jilted lovers meeting in the ring, the pop stars duked it out in an emotional brawl. It remains a fond memory and a key career moment for her. “That’s what we do! I’m out here representing my bisexual babies and the whole alphabet crew,” she says. “We love you all!”

Amanda Charchian

Jauregui’s smoky debut solo single “Expectations” arrived shortly after, in 2018. She released a few more singles into 2020, including the alluring “More Than That” that saw her dabbling in trap beats and the tropical bop “50 Ft.” At the same time, Jauregui started experimenting in Latin music with Puerto Rican producer Tainy and his Neon16 label. She was able to reflect on her Cuban roots in songs like the sensual “Lento” and “Nada” with Spanish rapper C. Tangana. The latter featured on Tainy’s mixtape The Kids That Grew Up on Reggaeton.

“I love them so much!” Jauregui says of her collaborators. “Neon16, as a company, they have so much talent. They’re such hustlers and they’re so dedicated to bringing the Latino voice outside, especially the American Latino voice — that melding of cultures. They’re like my brothers, especially Tainy. Tainy is a really good-ass human being and a really talented human, and when those two things meet, those are my people.”

After experiencing “creative differences about what my trajectory was as an artist,” Jauregui parted ways with Columbia in 2020. That makes Prelude, a dreamy yet moody collection where Jauregui wears her heart on her sleeve, her proper introduction as an indie artist; she released it under her own label Attunement Records, which she founded in October. Through the different writing and recording sessions she was part of, Jauregui made sure to stay in touch with the artists and industry folks that she met on her solo journey. Rappers Vic Mensa and 6lack feature on the EP. “I really needed the freedom to explore and do what I felt was my creative vision,” she says. “I needed to do that without impediment and without doubt, and fear, and lack of belief around me.”

Jauregui kicked off the Prelude era last month with “Colors.” The heartfelt ballad is like Jauregui’s pep talk to herself as she gets ready to embark on this new journey in her career. She calls it the “thesis” of the seven-song EP.” It’s me having that conversation with myself very intimately and very vulnerably about needing myself to show up for myself in order to do what I had to do,” Jauregui says. “Like, ‘Hey, you can do this, and I need to understand that even when everyone else is gone, you can’t fall apart. You and me are here to the end.'”

In the past, Jauregui has talked openly about her own mental-health struggles. She touches on the topic in her new single “Scattered” with Mensa. In the jazz-infused, R&B ballad, both artists sing about the stigma of recognizing and seeking help for the emotional demons that they’re battling. “Gloves on, match met / God makes Her bet,” she sings while bracing up.

“Art is my catharsis,” Jauregui says. “Art is the way that I make sense of life, what I’m feeling, and what I’m experiencing. One of those things that I was going through a lot of in the group and outside of the group was anxiety and depression, which I found stemmed majorly from just this inner conflict that I had with deservability. Like deserving to feel safe, deserving to feel taken care of, deserving a trustworthy team that isn’t going to do something behind my back. I had to relearn how to live in joy and how to make that constant in my life. I’m grateful to create things that people can listen to and feel less alone. I want them to be able to sit with the songs and feel like [they’re] a sonic hug from me.”

To make the songs on Prelude really land, Jauregui also collaborated with heavy-hitter producers. Malay, who previously worked with Frank Ocean, produced the EP’s lush closing track “Sorry.” Timbaland produced the tender track “Falling” with his Beatclub apprentices Angel López and Federico Vindver. Aiming for a positive state of mind in the latter song, Jauregui sings, “Focus on blessings and lessons.”

“Malay and I super vibed and clicked, first of all as people — he’s a really beautiful person — and second, as creatives,” Jauregui says. “Timbo was amazing! He was another person who respected what I had and what I was giving sonically and lyrically. I was like, ‘Damn, bro, you’re an OG!’ So it was really cool to work with him.”

As the EP’s title suggests, Prelude is an introduction to Jauregui’s debut album that’s due out next year. She will be performing songs from the EP and possibly a few other new ones in her intimate concerts towards the end of November through December in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Miami.

“The music that’s coming, there’s a bit more rhythm to it. There’s a bit more movement, a chance to shake your ass a little bit. It still has a uniqueness in the way that I put it together. It’s got more flow. It’s still emotional though,” Jauregui stresses. “You’re still going to get mad emo lyrics from me.”

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In celebration of her 29th birthday — and the start of Scorpio season — Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Sir Babygirl dropped a celebratory mixtape, their first release since 2019, and it’s as effervescent and unhinged as the buzzing and bombastic tunes that put them on the map. “Bed” starts with a slowed-down assertion, “You can’t reach me / I’m lying in my bed,” setting the tone for a meditation on depression, insecurity, and romance over heavy reverb. “Which side of my face do you want to replace / The side that laughs, the side that jokes / The one that scares you the most,” she spits before launching into a heavenly honest chorus of, “Will you lay next to me until I come back to my body.” It’s a fitting refrain for a track as intimate as the furniture it takes its name from. —Carson Mlnarik

The Prying Eyes Of Snail Mail’s Valentine

By Max Freedman

It’s easy to forget that Lindsey Jordan, the frontperson of esteemed Baltimore indie-rock band Snail Mail, was literally a teenager during her breakout moment – until she reminds you in the most subtly brutal way. “I was really overwhelmed by a lot of decisions that I had to make,” she tells MTV News about the months surrounding the release of her career-making debut album, 2018’s Lush, “and I was leaving high school.” The contrast is striking: Being a musician who tours, does press, maintains a steady social media presence, and hires a huge team requires lots of big choices that non-musicians might not understand. Jordan had to make those choices right as she legally became an adult. Many of the songs on her Lush follow-up, Valentine, boast flashes of this tension between a younger, more innocent Jordan and one suddenly thrust into the spotlight.

If Jordan, now 22, worked through teenage romances nearly in real time on Lush, then on Valentine, she mourns relationships well in the past, with something eerie newly in the mix. These post-breakup reflections come with glimpses into how her public exposure likewise affected her romantic partners. It’s a perspective rarely seen in pop music, and Jordan says that “it just comes out when I’m talking about [these] relationship[s].” In her memories of former loves, the eroded privacy barrier that she dealt with creeps in without permission.

This broken privacy barrier, Jordan surmises, is inevitable when music like hers reaches a wide audience. Lush did, landing on many critics’ 2018 year-end lists and earning her festival slots at Firefly and Primavera Sound, not to mention tour dates alongside Alvvays, Interpol, and Yo La Tengo. “Making emotionally vulnerable music makes people feel connected [to you] in a way that’s really intense,” she says. She also felt that the uniquely 21st-century “direct line of communication” that the internet sets up between musicians and fans exacerbated this intensity. Social media felt like a “weird bubble where you don’t have to be a normal person, because there are Instagram people that will love you no matter what. … Being in a feedback loop is not good for your mental health.”

This statement is as close as she comes to a broadly applicable hot take that could make headlines; only a few years into her twenties, Jordan is already realizing that her actual lived perspectives might be more valuable to share. That’s why she pivots back to the first person to wrap up a thought about social media: “I didn’t need any more validation, and I didn’t need to see any of the mean stuff.”

Valentine is likewise highly autobiographical, and throughout it, fragments of the constant commentary and watchful eyes of fans pop up as she revisits past relationships. The album evokes how, when you’re going through an extended period of truly awful emotions, you might think you’re solely responsible for your ailing, but once it’s all in the past, you can see the external roots of your trauma with glaring clarity. It all comes with mid-tempo music that’s among Jordan’s moodiest and — dare it be said — most lush to date, with string sections and Jordan more frequently singing in raspier tones. In growing out of her teenage years, she’s sandpapered her voice’s roughest edges and left behind a more mature, nuanced register and range.

On Valentine’s title track, she asks a partner in an I-just-woke-up voice, “Those parasitic cameras, don’t they stop to stare at you?” Around them, synths gleam and drums murmur in a Twin-Peaks-meets-chillwave manner that conjures intermingled bliss, anxiety, and trauma. For the rest of the song, though, she focuses on her signature unrequited love. On “Forever (Sailing),” she sings, “Don’t let ’em see, we don’t owe it to nobody,” on a song otherwise about losing an old flame to someone else. She rarely leaves her gravelly low register,  cycling through her woes over a dirge of guitars and mellotron-like synths. As she reminisces on this relationship, that ever-pervasive crumbled privacy barrier comes scything in, disrupting meaningful moments for both partners.

“The dynamic,” Jordan says, is “one where neither person is set up for privacy.” The way it juts into her lyrics almost without permission, on an album she describes as primarily about “love and loss and stuff like that,” reflects how inescapable her public exposure felt. Its semi-accidental presence on Valentine might also stem from how few paths she had to vent about it. She did have Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield (“my closest friend, probably”) actively “working through a lot of this stuff with me.” (Crutchfield provides backing vocals on the synthy, bassy highlight “Ben Franklin,” the only Valentine track on which Jordan mentions her 45-day stint in a treatment facility.) But simultaneously, her high school friends were going through “so much that…I haven’t, just in a real-life context.” They might have been enjoying the nearly responsibility-free time between high school and college, while Jordan was “doing this job that’s unique because you’re getting good at one skill set, and that skill set is separate from everything in the real world.” The growing gap between herself and her peers made her ascendance and acclaim feel deeply isolating.

That loneliness pervades Valentine. Even the softest, slowest songs on Lush felt like they were being played to a crowd, but on Valentine’s “c. et. al.” and “Mia,” you can envision Jordan convening with only a few other people in a small, enclosed space. The strings on the latter are especially stirring, and they’re among Jordan’s most exciting new ideas. She brought them to the table with full support from Valentine co-producer Brad Cook, a Bon Iver and Waxahatchee affiliate who co-produced another pivotal 2021 indie-rock release, Indigo de Souza’s Any Shape You Take. Cook, Jordan says, was “really cool about letting me take the reins as a co-producer and left a lot of things to me to decide.” Every new instrument they added together was fully intended to “emphasize what’s already there. … Having a string crescendo [or] a certain tone on a synth bring[s] home the message.” So, too, does the astonishing breadth of her voice’s “gentle moments, not-gentle moments, and intimate moments.”

These choices pay off tremendously on “Glory,” where cello swells in the verses reinforce the guitars’ melancholy. They disappear in the chorus, but the solemn tone they’ve set helps Jordan’s low-register hums of “You owe me / You own me” come off plainly defeated rather than angry, and the way she makes the simple words “owe” and “own” sound nearly indistinct paint a clear picture of her head-swirling emotional state. On the chorus of “Headlock,” pianos — mostly unheard of on previous Snail Mail tracks — imbue the chorus with a twinkling, resigned nostalgia that makes the straightforward lines “Man enough to see this through / Man, I’m nothing without you” feel infinitely more devastating.

“Is it one more thing I won’t get to?” Jordan asks toward the track’s end. Though she’s ostensibly talking about the romance defining the song, it’s tempting to read a gutting double-meaning. As a breakout musician dealing with all the attendant exposure, increasingly many ordinary experiences felt out of reach, if not deeply meaningful, to her as she went through circumstances entirely foreign to the people in her life. That’s the duality of Valentine, though that fading privacy barrier is still not the main point. If it were, she presumably wouldn’t be releasing another album and diving back into the same public exposure underlying these songs. If anything, Valentine has helped her come to terms with it all. “It left me feeling pretty exposed and confused,” she says, “but ultimately, I think it could’ve been a lot worse.”

Nessa Barrett Picks Her Poison

Since first breaking into the music industry, the genre-blending artist Nessa Barrett has plunged further into her own inner darkness with each new release. She plays a ghost in the music video for “I Hope Ur Miserable Until Ur Dead,” haunting an ex-boyfriend in lingerie and opera-length gloves, appearing in mirrors and watching him as he sleeps, like a lingering curse. In “I Wanna Die,” the singer is an acrylic-nailed corpse being made up for a funeral by a handsome undertaker. “If I’m being honest, I’ve never felt more confident than when I had dead makeup on,” she tells MTV with a laugh.

But for 19-year-old Barrett, who is MTV’s Push artist for November 2021, the journey into those depths has been one toward authenticity and self-discovery. The takeaway for the revenge anthem “I Hope Ur Miserable Until Ur Dead,” for example, is to be true to yourself and your deepest feelings, even when it makes others uncomfortable. “There’s no wrong in showing that you’re hurt or bothered by what someone has done to you,” she says. “I feel like I was tired of hearing, ‘Oh, I wish them the best no matter what.’”

MTV

Indeed, the singer today, with her often bleak lyrics and raven locks, is barely recognizable from the brown-haired girl from Galloway, New Jersey, who quickly shot to fame on TikTok. Barrett first became known to the world for the clips she shared to the app beginning in March 2019 in which she would mouth lyrics and dance to old-school hip-hop songs. But social media stardom casts a long shadow, and so she charted a course across the country to Los Angeles last summer, setting her sights on a successful career as an artist.

The gamble paid off. After releasing her debut single, the piano-led ballad “Pain,” she soon signed with Warner Records. And earlier this year, in September 2021, Barrett dropped her first EP, Pretty Poison, a collection of tracks that tackles her experiences with mental health, romantic relationships, and coming of age in the public eye through a quintessentially “dark, moody” lens. It also swerves into new territory, as on the grunge-colored sound of “La Di Die,” and into the genre of love songs. There are two on the project (though you wouldn’t know by their gloomy titles alone), “I Wanna Die” and “Grave,” which were inspired by her relationship with Jaden Hossler, better known as the artist Jxdn.

“I got the idea and concept [for “Grave”] from a conversation I had with Jaden. He said something that was so cute, and I was a creep and I was like, OK, I’m going to write this in my notes because I know I’m going to use this in a song later. He said he would take his love for me to the grave and I was like, My heart, and also, [That’s a] song.” She performs this track, as well as “I Hope Ur Miserable Until Ur Dead,” as part of her MTV Push interview below.

Ed Sheeran Is ‘Excited To Hit The Ground Running’ After COVID-19 Isolation

This weekend, Ed Sheeran is set to stop by Saturday Night Live as the musical guest in a show hosted by Succession star (and eternal onscreen snot-boy treasure) Kieran Culkin. This pairing was announced on October 23, but the very next day, Sheeran revealed he’d tested positive for COVID-19 and had entered self-isolation and begun “following government guidelines.”

For the past few weeks, that news had left the status of the upcoming show in limbo, and into that void even entered a viral plea to let The Mountain Goats play the show instead. But it seems that will not be necessary: Sheeran updated today (November 2) that he’s been released from COVID-19 isolation and that he’s “excited to hit the ground running with work again.”

Some of that work, of course, is SNL, which he assured will indeed happen. “Posting this pic to say I’m released from covid isolation today, so if you see me out and about I’ve had the all clear and done my quarantine,” he wrote. “Excited to hit the ground running with work again, and SNL is still on, so tune in Saturday, see you there.”

Sheeran’s fifth album, = (“Equals”), dropped on October 29, and presumably, he’ll perform a pair of tunes from that release on SNL. Ahead of the album, he released the singles “Bad Habits” and “Shivers” and performed the latter at the 2021 MTV VMAs from Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City.

On the red carpet ahead of the VMAs, Sheeran told MTV News that = represents the penultimate entry in his math-themed musical series. “There’s one more album after ‘Equals, and then the mathematics are done,” he said. The final one is presumably (“Subtract”), a hypothetical collection he’s teased as potentially entirely acoustic, or without the frills of a more polished and full-band studio-pop sound.

That’s presumably still a few years away yet. In the meantime, Sheeran will make his third appearance on SNL as a performer this weekend, after previous spots in 2014 and 2017. Maybe he’ll even be in a sketch or two. Perhaps him and Culkin will stage Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth in its entirety alongside Chloe Fineman to fill all 90 minutes of airtime. Who knows, man! Live television is wild.

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Tasha, an evocative singer-songwriter from Chicago, is gearing up for the release of her new LP, Tell Me What You Miss The Most, on November 5. A great introduction to her abilities comes in “Bed Song 1,” where a direct, circular guitar rhythm is enough to entrance you, leaving you completely open to hear Tasha bare her soul. “It is a song about love ending, and wanting to linger in the imagining of it at its best, its warmest, and its most tender, while you try to let it go,” she says in a statement. —Patrick Hosken

Lily Konigsberg’s Spunky Songs Of Sadness

By Ted Davis

If you follow underground rock music, there’s a good chance that you have at least heard the name Palberta. For 10 years, the New York City band worked hard to carve a niche for themselves in the indie scene, touting an angular, sludgy sound that falls somewhere between The Raincoats and Palm. At its front is Lily Konigsberg, a quirky songwriter whose energy and charisma carry the act’s distinctive attitude. Palberta’s work is minimal and lo-fi, but Konigsberg’s wonky musicianship and spunky vocals helped make them one of the most prolific and playfully bizarre outfits to emerge from the Northeast’s thriving punk circuit.

Although Konigsberg has stayed busy making records and touring with Palberta, she carved out time on the side to write solo material. Where her work with the band is sweaty and freewheeling, her solitary output is sunnier and more outwardly cheeky. Drawing from early 2000s radio pop, Konigsberg’s solo debut, Lily We Need to Talk Now, is a surprising departure. Citing childhood favorites like Michelle Branch, Avril Lavigne, and Liz Phair as key touchstones for the record, many of the perky tracks return to mind long-lost cuts from the soundtracks to movies like 10 Things I Hate About You or 13 Going on 30.

“I loved good-quality pop,” Konigsberg told MTV News over Zoom, reflecting on her favorite music from when she was younger. “I loved those rom-com songs that would come in at the end of the movie and you’d associate that song with the movie and you’d know all the lyrics.”

But while Konigsberg was listening to bubbly, nostalgic singles while writing Lily We Need to Talk Now, out today (October 29), she wasn’t quite able to eschew the darkness in her life. Conceived in the throes of relationship turmoil, as she simultaneously battled an addiction she’s since kicked, the record’s sonic optimism belies an intensity lurking beneath. “I went through a breakup during COVID, or it was expedited by COVID,” she said. “There were a lot of songs that were a different aspect of the grief and the anger and the sadness and blaming yourself.”

The mall-pop, acoustic guitar-driven “Sweat Forever” is written in a nonsensical style that captures the gravity of Konigsberg’s mental turbulence. With lyrics like, “I was right / The last time that I saw you / Said goodbye / Knowing it would be forever,” the track juxtaposes the DayGlo elation of its instrumental with depressed musings. “I’m just a little too much of an oddball to write a perfect early 2000s pop gem, but I’m still really influenced by it, and you can tell that,” Konigsberg said.

Produced by Water From Your Eyes multi-instrumentalist Nate Amos, the album came to life after the two decided to record “Sweat Forever” at his house together. Amos took the reins, shaping the songs on Lily We Need to Talk Now as the two also played together in the duo My Idea. While they worked closely over the pandemic, they wrote over 50 songs in the course of just a few months. You can hear the push and pull of their partnership in Konigsberg’s solo work, grounded in her straightforward rock songwriting yet toying with Amos’s whimsical electronic experimentation.

“We just found a musical partner that was equal in their pop sensibility,” Konigsberg said, describing their unique creative chemistry. “We were a once-in-a-lifetime musical partnership. We had to do it.”

Amos, a lifelong bluegrass player with a penchant for warm psychedelia, stepped outside of his sonic comfort zone behind the boards. “Don’t Be Lazy With Me” centers on washes of organic ambience, driven by pianos, synths, and horns. “Alone” is syncopated and dancey, and feels a bit like the work of an early 2010s PBR&B artist. Meanwhile, “Hark” is stripped back and shuffling, with just a wink of outlaw attitude. Like every Konigsberg endeavor to date, there’s something unplaceable about the album, even though it evokes a specific era.

Lily We Need to Talk Now isn’t all cheery instrumentals and spirited melodies, though. “True” dabbles in chaotic post-punk and surf rock. “Bad Boy”’s chunky, churning instrumental brings to mind the exciting early years of Palberta. Meanwhile, “Proud Home” is a downright ripper, with its ’90s-indebted riffing and motorik groove. “I’m not a painfully depressed person, but I feel like a pretty complex person,” Konigsberg said. “Not to say that everyone isn’t complex. I think everyone is. But I have a lot of darkness in me, and I also have a lot of light in me.” You can hear this duality when listening to the record in full. At times, it’s inviting and chipper. At others, it’s severe, even stoic.

“Addicts don’t really know when they’re addicts sometimes, like, how that’s affecting their writing or anything like that,” she continues. “I’m sure being at the peak of my addiction was an influence.”

The release of Lily We Need to Talk Now coincides with a turning point for Konigsberg. After a decade of playing shows with Palberta, the band decided to take an indefinite hiatus. “We’re gonna take a break because, honestly, it’s really hard to be in so many projects,” she said. “You really can’t grow enough in each one while you’re doing so much.” Although Konigsberg insists they’ll be back, Lily We Need to Talk Now heralds a new phase in her career where she’ll be focusing on performing her solo work and writing for My Idea. As she leaves bad habits in the rearview and puts these emotionally heavy songs out into the world, Konigsberg’s new concoctions may embrace a new tone.

“For my next album, the influence will really be my friends and love and being grateful,” Konigsberg said, musing about how she thinks brighter times might shape her upcoming music. Lily We Need to Talk Now plays like the work of someone trying to recapture the spirit of youth. When listened to closely, though, it’s more adult. As Konigsberg heals in tandem with the world around her, it seems as if her mindset might finally mirror her newfound aesthetic disposition.