Our Take: MUNA’s “About U” LP is Emotive Pop with Political Prowess

MUNA © Katie McCurdy
MUNA © Katie McCurdy

Alex's Take


2017 already has many of us feeling deflated, discouraged and scared. For those who can’t be held by boxes and labels, for the people who are judged and discriminated against by the color of their skin, legal status, sexual orientation or gender identity, these are frightening times. Now, more than ever, we are in need of formidable and defiant role models and artists to stand up to the injustice and fight back with their words, actions and music. Now, more than ever, we need MUNA.

While there are a large number of people only now realizing just how broken, biased and truly awful our nation’s justice system, government and societal standards can be, this is not the case for a vast majority of those most negatively affected. Women, minorities, the LGBTQ community and so on have felt the weight of their suggested lesser status for as long as they have been able to perceive it. All this to say that as a three-piece queer girl band, MUNA not only sympathize with those who are oppressed, they consciously empathize. First garnering recognition with their singles “Loudspeaker” and Winterbreak” off their Loudspeaker EP, Katie Gavin, Naomi McPherson and Josette Maskin exploded onto the pop scene with their first full-length album, About U (2/3/2017 via RCA Records).

About U – MUNA

About U is an exhilarating and empowering album in the best of ways – it makes you want to get up and dance away the pain while you scream-sing along with captivating frontwoman, Katie Gavin. On the surface, it’s an album of glossy dance-pop with solid roots in 80’s synth. With music that is equally emotive as it is intoxicating, their attentive lyricism compels thoughtful reflection on both personal and societal issues.

Released in early December, their track “I Know a Place” is a pure and beautiful plea to all those feeling outcast to not give in, but to recognize whatever pain they may have and use that as a force for kindness. “We wanted this video to be a depiction of the fact that acknowledging the humanity of your enemy can be the most powerful battle tactic of all,” MUNA writes in the description box for the video on YouTube.

Watch: “I Know A Place” – MUNA

MUNA have made it clear that their music is very much political, but the personal nature of the lyrics are also worthy of attention, they explained to The Guardian. Arguably one of the most powerful tracks on the record and one of MUNA’s earliest releases, “Loudspeaker” centers on sexual assault and how common an occurrence it is for women.

What you’ve done to me
Well I’ve seen many a friend be silenced
Thinking nobody would believe them

The track is an example of just how accomplished MUNA is at depicting difficult and heart wrenching experiences in a deferential and truly empowering way. For those of us lucky enough to not have experienced sexual assault, it offers perspective. For those that have, it’s an anthem of fellow feeling. All this wrapped in a package of vivid, synth-soaked tunes destined for the dancefloor. The juxtaposition throughout the album of upbeat rhythms and darker themes highlight the grey area that exists in many situations MUNA touch on. Though many of the circumstances in life are unfair and difficult to handle, that fact makes the importance of hope all the more paramount.

Watch: “Loudspeaker” – MUNA

By addressing issues that women and minorities are so often told to be silent about, MUNA’s music is the ultimate act of defiance. Their lyrical versatility allows them to be both a political force and a tangible means of support. The album is overflowing with poetic portrayals of life through an unapologetically queer lens. Purposely lacking in gender pronouns, About U seeks to be the ultimate safe space for anyone and everyone who listens. MUNA’s live shows are meant to be an extension of that – a specific place in a period of time where nothing and no one can hurt you – a place where you are free to feel, and be you.

“Crying on the Bathroom Floor” is a cognizant monologue told from the perspective of a person experiencing emotional abuse. The narrator contemplates the dynamic of their relationship and ultimately realizes over the course of the song that, as MUNA put it, “this isn’t what love looks like.”

Crying on the bathroom floor
Tearing off the dress I wore, I wonder
If I could never ask for more
If I’m never gonna ask for more from a lover

While many artists choose not to explain their motivations behind their music, whether it’s personal to them or they’d rather leave it open to the interpretation of the listener, MUNA actively explain their art. It’s clear that they want you to understand the fact that Trump displays textbook abusive behavior, and they want you to think about that as you listen. They want you to relate their music to your personal experiences, but they also want you to realize that, hey, sexual assault is real. It’s real, it’s common, and that’s fucking important. As approachable as their sound is, MUNA’s music is conscious, it’s in your face, and hopefully, it will inspire you to take action.

MUNA © 2017
MUNA © 2017

Returning to the music – it’s just awesome. MUNA have managed to create a sound that brings brooding vocals and commanding synths reminiscent of Depeche Mode together with the bright, catchy flavor of Tegan And Sara to create what they’ve dubbed “dark pop.” While the definition refers to the darker themes the band discusses, it also portrays their sound quite well. Gavin’s dark vocal tone married with the band’s signature synth and guitar creates a beautiful balance of dark and light; hope and reality. And while the majority of the album is characterized by confident, fast-paced beats, About U fosters slowed down gems that speak to the heart, like the post-one-night-stand ode, “After.”

It feels like a dream, what happened last night
In the morning I am waiting in the long, long line
I felt so connected, I felt so high
I am going to be lonely for a long, long time

The beat hits hard as the narrator contemplates the morality and implications of the night before. With few words, MUNA captures an intimate feeling that is deeply personal and oftentimes lonely, and offers solace.

MUNA © Catie Laffoon
MUNA © Catie Laffoon

MUNA promoted their album by playing two of their songs, “I Know a Place” and “Crying on the Bathroom Floor,” on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Monday, February 6, 2017. During their performance of “I Know a Place,” Gavin unexpectedly added a few extra lines to the end of the bridge:

Even if our skin or our gods look different
I believe all human life is significant
I throw my arms open wide in resistance
He’s not my leader, even if he’s my president, no

These anti-Trump lyrics display a message loud and clear: not only does MUNA not support Donald Trump, they actively oppose him and the beliefs he represents. By going on national television and actually using that platform to make a statement, MUNA have set a strong example for political action we can only hope will be followed by others.

Every song on About U contains an opportunity. There’s the opportunity for love on “End of Desire,” solidarity on “I Know a Place,” redemption on “Promise,” and reclamation on “So Special” and “Loudspeaker.” By exhibiting both a safe and welcoming space, this album is about realizing who we are and taking a stand against those who seek to harm us. Whether it’s in your relationship, your workplace, your community or your government, we must stand up for ourselves and those around us. And through their music that challenges bureaucracy, misogyny, racism and more, know that MUNA will stand with you. As three badass, queer and relentless ladies who exist in a world of their own but are so graciously bringing light to this one, MUNA are poised to set the world ablaze.

Stream / Purchase MUNA’s ‘about u’

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about u - MUNA

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MUNA © Katie McCurdy

:: MUNA 2017 Tour Dates ::

2/16 @ The Record Bar – Kansas City, MO
2/17 @ Turf Club – St. Paul, MN
2/18 @ Subterranean – Chicago, IL
2/20 @ The Drake Hotel – Toronto, ON
2/22 @ Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY
2/24 @ Brighton Music Hall – Boston, MA
2/25 @ Johnny  Brenda’s – Philadelphia, PA
2/26 @ DC9 – Washington, DC

tix & info @ whereismuna.com
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