Welcome to Under the Covers, your weekly dose of genre-bending with your favorite WBRU artists & songs! From the genuinely good to the seriously strange, we’ve got you covered. This week, Mitski contributes to the First 100 Days project by covering One Direction.
In 2010, One Direction formed on the X Factor, and Mitski was nineteen years old, about to start her sophomore year of college. About a year later, One Direction released its first album; two months after that, Mitski released hers. There aren’t many similarities between the glossy-pop boy band and Mitski’s richly emotional, often orchestral indie rock. But when Harry Styles, the most well-known mop of hair from One Direction, released his solo album, Mitski wrote a review for The Talkhouse.
“I never fully allow myself to love things that I feel are too bright and too clean for me, and if One Direction was the pack of popular boys in school, then Harry had the prettiest face of them all,” Mitski wrote. It’s the brightness and cleanness of their music, polished to appeal to a wide audience, that often made One Direction seem so laughable to ‘real’ music fans and critics. Mitski carries indie cred and potency; she’s serious, a true artist, but she pushes back against the lazy categorization of One Direction as crappy teenybopper pop. She once tweeted, “disrespect 1D, disrespect me.” Additionally, she recorded a cover of “Fireproof,” from the boy band’s album Four, for Consequence of Sound’s Our First 100 Days compilation, a project during the first hundred days of Trump’s presidency to benefit organizations under threat from the new administration.
The cover rocks harder than 1D’s version, wrenched tighter with fuzz and feedback, and Mitski chews the catchy folk-pop hook in her raw, taut vocals. It’s shorter, trimming a minute from the already-short original. Listening to the single is a rush – energizing, cathartic – as if you are hearing the anger and tension pouring out of Mitski’s mouth. It’s a perfect soundtrack to the nation’s, especially women’s, frustration at current events. Ever since Trump became president (really, ever since his campaign became threateningly serious), women have lived under a shadow of misogyny, disrespect, and danger from our own government. We’re now over 700 days into his presidency and three years since the tragedy of One Direction’s split. The world is dark and unjust. Sometimes a sweet love song by a group of cute boys is what we need. Sometimes an angry wail of feminine power backed by a wall of guitar noise is what we need. Mitski, as always, delivers.