Earlier this month, Hey Violet released their highly-anticipated debut album, From The Outside. Substream writer Gabriel Aikinsloved the record, claiming the young group “draw upon inspirations and influences from many well-established genres and musical ideas, but their songwriting and personal spin on these ideas pushes toward tomorrow.” His feelings toward the record mirror my own, and having spent more than a month with the album myself the only conclusion that can be drawn is that that Hey Violet is the band of the future. This group has everything, from an aesthetic the blurs the line between punk and pop culture, to lyrics that resonate deep in the soul of the listener without sacrificing accessibility of the music, and From The Outside showcases these elements well.
To date, the members of Hey Violet have promoted two songs off From The Outside as official singles. The first, “Guys My Age,” is a hypnotic mid-tempo rock track about falling in love with more experienced men because young boys are not man enough to handle a mature woman. To say the song is an ear worm would be an understatement, but it’s the confidence and power expressed through the lyrics that first caught people’s attention. The refusal to break just because your heart is broken helped set Hey Violet apart as something different in the world of radio rock. They are singing about the things everyone sings about, but in a way that feels fresh from a perspective rarely detailed in song. “Break My Heart,” the second single that was released about two months ahead of the record, is similarly optimistic despite being based in hardship.
Even the group’s unofficial singles have acknowledged and arguably celebrated the kind of power that can only come from surviving hard times. “Fuqboi,” for example, details the feeling one gets when they realize their new love interest is just like all the other fish in the sea who are unworthy of their time. It’s not about denying the feelings that come with these tough experiences or looking past the time wasted, but rather celebrating the fact you got to experience such events because they offered opportunities for growth and personal development that cannot be found anywhere else. You are the person you are today because you survived what came before, and to hear the band tell it there is no reason to think the you of today is anything other than strong.
But anyone who has lived life long enough will tell you that everything eventually has a counter-balance. Those who do one thing really well tend to perform poorly elsewhere. Likewise, those who write good songs about one thing tend to struggle when it comes to writing about anything other than that one topic. This is why so many artists end up writing themselves into creative corners where they must choose to either rehash the same thing over and over or call it quits altogether. Consumers, industry analysts say, do not want multi-faceted entertainers. They believe people prefer simplicity in art, where the fist thing someone does well is the only thing they ever do, but to me this is flawed thinking because all anyone really wants out of art is something that makes them feel less alone. The point of art is to help us relate to one another, and there is nothing simple about this crazy experience called life. To act is if any element of it is black and white, or that anything remains the same forever, would be to do a disservice to yourself and everyone around you.
This is why the time has finally come for Hey Violet to push the aggressive confidence that has permeated their every radio single to date aside ever so briefly and promote the track “Hoodie” next. The song represents everything those unfamiliar with Hey Violet have yet to discover through the songs and videos released to date. It’s a track about being vulnerable that paints a picture practically anyone who has been in a teenager in the last fifty years knows at least one side of, if not both, and through doing so connects listeners of all ages through a single, pivotal experience in young love that changes everyone.
You never forget the first time you fall in love with someone, but if for some reason you do it is almost certain you won’t forget the pain of losing that connection or the sense of intangible loss that follows. It is an experience that can set the tone for every relationship you have moving forward, or at the very least make you think twice before sharing your heart again, and as you lay in your bed going over every moment with a fine-toothed comb in hopes of understanding where things went awry you will cling to whatever piece of the now lost love you still possess. This is especially true in instances where you physically have something of theirs, like a hoodie, because it becomes very easy to see that object as a sign of lingering emotion. What once brought joy an comfort to the someone special now does the same for you, even if that someone special is nowhere to be found.
Even though everyone experiences hard times like these (shoutout Paramore) our culture still shuns discussion and recognition of such events. We’re told to hate those who break our heart and to move on without allowing the pain of the experience to drag us down. We teach people it is better to repress the feelings than let them overwhelm you because it seems easier, but is it? Could it be possible that being anything other than true to yourself and your emotion is actually easier than simply being who you are and feeling the things you feel?
By setting up their career and debut album as they have, the members of Hey Violet have aligned themselves with themes of strength, boldness, and perseverance that empowers those who listen to the music. With that sense of power established the group can now begin encouraging fans to deal with and heal from the hard times that made them feel weak in the first place by sharing even more stories they can relate to through song. “Hoodie” is a track that does just that, and in doing so it serves as a reminder that vulnerability and strength are not opposing concepts. In fact, it goes one step further an proves they are one in the same because there is nothing in this life more challenging than accepting one’s own self, flaws and all, and sharing that person with the world.