“I wanna make you my world”: Pale Waves Capture the Excitement of New Love on “Perfume”

Pale Waves 'Perfume' © Kelsi Luck
Pale Waves 'Perfume' © Kelsi Luck
On their new single “Perfume,” Manchester’s Pale Waves return to their retro-pop roots with an anthem about the beginning of a relationship.
Stream: “Perfume” – Pale Waves

Won’t you let down your guard and walk into my arms?

Science tells us that our brains are different when we are falling in love.

In an article for Harvard Medical School, several professors and therapists discuss the ways that the initial phases of love flood the body with hormones that activate the brain’s reward circuit. According to the article, this can then lead to physical changes like “racing hearts, sweaty palms, flushed cheeks, [and] feelings of passion and anxiety.”

It’s fascinating to learn the science behind what is happening in our bodies as we fall for someone, but it’s hard to beat the experience of hearing a love song that perfectly matches our feelings in those moments of euphoria. That’s exactly what Pale Waves give us on their new single “Perfume.”

Smitten - Pale Waves
Smitten – Pale Waves

Pale Waves, a UK band signed to Dirty Hit Records (along with labelmates The 1975, The Japanese House, and Bleachers) burst onto the scene with the ’80s-inspired pop sound of their 2018 debut album My Mind Makes Noises.

Their subsequent albums, 2021’s Who Am I? and 2022’s Unwanted, then began to incorporate more elements of pop-punk into the band’s sound. Now, along with their new single, they’ve announced the release of their fourth album, Smitten, due for a September 20th release.

My mother said when
I want something I never let it go-o
Call me obsessed,
but I don’t mind just as long as it’s all mine

In many ways, “Perfume” signals a return to the retro-pop sound of the band’s debut, with big, echoing drums and shimmering electric guitars. Still, they haven’t completely abandoned the edgier sound of their more recent projects. In the new song’s final minute, a heavily distorted guitar swoops in and takes over the arrangement.

“Perfume” is a song that taps into all the excitement and complexity that comes with the beginning of a relationship—in both its sonic texture and lyrical themes. It begins with lead vocalist Heather Baron-Gracie letting out a wordless wail reminiscent of The Cranberries over a jangly, rhythmic guitar, signaling the song’s exuberant energy from the opening bars.



As the song unfolds, it takes you on a journey through many of the emotions that accompany a budding romance. In the opening verse, Baron-Gracie sings of an all-encompassing infatuation:

When I saw you, I knew it was over
I just laid down and surrendered
Laying in the fields with you,
Please tell me that we can make this last forever

The emotions behind these lines are probably familiar to anyone who has experienced that kind of crush that leaves you unable to think about anything or anyone else. The song then explodes into a catchy yet simple chorus. The repetition of the two lines perfectly imitates the way our minds tend to latch onto certain phrases or ways of thinking in these moments:

I want to make you my girl
I want to make you my world

The chorus also continues Baron-Gracie’s commitment to honesty and authenticity in her lyrics by writing candidly about queer love. Writing a song is a vulnerable act in any circumstance, but it can be even more vulnerable when writing from your experience as part of an underrepresented group. In a 2020 interview with Buzzfeed, the Pale Waves lead singer discussed her thoughts on this topic when asked about the band’s song, “She’s My Religion”:

“My girlfriend inspired it. On the first album, there weren’t any pronouns — there might have been love songs or songs that were kind of about love, but they weren’t so obvious. In the period of time [since], I became more comfortable with myself, became more comfortable with my sexuality. And I also met someone who I think the world about, so it made it really easy to write about. I feel really confident writing about my sexuality now.”

Baron-Gracie has continued to grow and better understand herself as a musician and a human in the years since. “I’m just evolving and establishing better relationships with being a musician,” Baron-Gracie told Kerrang! earlier this year. “It’s healthier for me, both in my body and in my mind—and I actually enjoy music more for it.” That enjoyment is certainly present in the band’s energetic new single.

Pale Waves 'Perfume' © Kelsi Luck
Pale Waves ‘Perfume’ © Kelsi Luck

On the second verse of “Perfume,” the initial moments of frantic excitement have begun to shift into a shared intimacy and vulnerability:

Sleep beside me
Come and see my dreams,
my fears, and stay right here

Taste me with your mouth
Believe me, I can give you what you need
Your perfume on my skin
Can our love just begin?
Won’t you let down your guard
and walk into my arms?

It’s at this point in the song that the emotion crescendos, with the anthemic chorus flowing into an electric guitar solo.

Ultimately, “Perfume” leaves us uncertain of where the relationship will lead. It’s a song concerned more with beginnings than endings. Eventually, things settle into a steadier state, or the relationship might not work out in the end. But no matter what, you’ll always have the memory of those first moments of brain-altering euphoria.

I wanna make, I wanna make you
I wanna make, I wanna make you
I wanna make, I wanna make you my girl
I wanna make, I wanna make you
I wanna make, I wanna make you
I wanna make, I wanna make you my world
My world

— —

:: stream/purchase Perfume here ::
:: pre-order Smiten here ::
:: connect with Pale Waves here ::
Stream: “Perfume” – Pale Waves

— — — —

Smitten - Pale Waves

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? © Kelsi Luck

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