Sky Ferreira is finally back to making (and releasing!) music after a six year gap between her debut album, “Night Time, My Time,” and her new 2019 single, “Downhill Lullaby.” And her new brand of gothic, orchestral balladry sounds nothing like most of the hooky, electropop found on “Night Time.”
Six years is plenty of time to reinvent yourself, or to second-guess yourself. Her sophomore record, “Masochism,” was announced back in 2015 and promised to drop in the summer of 2016, but nothing came. She appeared in a few films and stayed fairly active on social media, but she was also often harassed by angry fans asking, “Where’s the album, Sky?”
I listened to “Night Time” back in 2013, but back then my sensibilities were such that I was mostly turned off by the moody, naked picture of her on the cover. I only appreciated her music later on, especially the song which first saw her rise to pop stardom, “Everything Is Embarrassing.” That track’s iciness in both lyrical content and production is a quality that she still hasn’t quite recreated in the same way since, and with “Downhill Lullaby,” she sounds more Nick Cave than she does Lorde.
“Downhill Lullaby” interpolates The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony,” using those familiar strings to ascend against a muddy bassline and patient rhythm section. She’s snarling in a way she hasn’t really before too, laying waste to an abusive relationship that she wishes she’d never gotten caught into.
She sings on the second verse, “I took the bludgeoned affection / Come and teach me a lesson / All the things of a good time,” almost daring some past love to try her again. The way she sings about them taking advantage of her is brutal and uncomfortable, almost glorifying the highs, “The gag and the blind, the perfecting of the rush / Yeah, I walked with the fire.”
This isn’t exactly fit for radio, and might not be likely to hop on a Spotify-curated playlist either. The lyrics will make you squirm a little even as those strings and her typical maximalist, layered production suck you in. On “Downhill Lullaby,” Ferreira shows the pain and allure of indulgent self-destruction.
She’s always found these types of paradoxes in her music. The magic of “Everything Is Embarrassing” was how she blended debilitating self-consciousness with a hypnotic and dance-able beat, plus a melody that would run in your head as often as your most recent awkward greeting.
“Lullaby” inhabits a darker, more mature space, but that tension between chaos and self- control is still fundamentally there. But this time, she’s leaning into that chaos and creating beauty to spite it.
'Music Mondays' is a weekly column run in conjunction with the University of Richmond radio, WDCE.
Contact contributor Conner Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org. Evans serves as the music director for WDCE, the University of Richmond radio.