A Happier Kind of Sad: 


Words: Katie Williams

October 16 2022

My mom doesn’t let me play my music in the car.

The songs I put on are always too slow for her taste, saddled with a lethargy I embrace all too readily. She wants to listen to music that makes her dance instead of cry, she tells me, and I laugh as I scroll through my liked songs in a hurried attempt to fulfill her request. She wants movement; I wonder why I gravitate towards something so still.

The music I’ve loved has always been unhappy. I find myself rotating through the same few songs, picking at attached memories like scabs. I relive the same apologies and concessions until new ones are made, a sense of comfort in this act of wallowing. It is inflexible and uniform, stable.

Why is it so hard to be anything but sad? It’s a feeling that lures me in with a promise of safety; I drown in it. Nevertheless, I’ve been trying to break the habit of sinking and staying there. In the midst of this endeavor, I started listening to MUNA.

If I had been able to grin and bear it/ Would we be home by now?

— “Home by Now”

Silk Chiffon

I don’t remember the first time I heard “Silk Chiffon”, but I know that since its release in the fall of last year it has been a constant presence in my life, whether on my Tiktok feed or in my dorm room. The song begins somewhat subdued: lead singer Katie Gavin enters with only guitar for the first verse. Gavin sings about a fun night out with a girl she really likes (a subject I am always more than happy to find in the music I listen to). With the arrival of the pre-chorus comes the drums, and Gavin asserts, “Life’s so fun, life’s so fun / Don’t need to worry about no one.” This is the part where the song starts feeling almost listless in its joy, in the unguarded softness of queer love.

Although Phoebe Bridgers joins in after the second verse, the union of their voices stands out the most during the bridge. “If it feels good to me, it feels good to me/ Oo, why wouldn't it be? Oo, why wouldn't it be?” they repeat, a reminder to feel good without nitpicking or questioning why, something I feel like I’m always forgetting. I’m always anticipating things turning sour, holding my breath until I can let out a sigh of relief when I find myself in a familiar place of disappointment. I want to let myself be happy, to bask in it, to let it feel good.


MUNA’s eighth track “Solid” radiates the same feel good sensation as “Silk Chiffon”.  What makes “Solid” so fun is in part its instrumentation— a funky bassline and bright 80s-style synth–but also its chorus. The members of MUNA sing praise to a masculine (possibly butch) partner: “She's so-so-so solid (She's so solid, my baby, she's so solid)/ Yeah, yeah, yeah/ My baby's so solid (She's so solid, my baby, she's so solid).” With the whole band singing together, the song is given a fuller sound. This fullness emphasizes the idea of this person as solid, authentic, and, in a more literal sense, physically fit. All these things I love, as it’s refreshing to listen to a song that praises masculine women so unambiguously.

As with “Silk Chiffon,” my favorite section of “Solid” is the bridge. The band describes a partner’s work in vague terms. “She's making a plan, she's taking it higher/ She's using her hands, she's pulling the levers/ She's dotting her i's, she's checking the levels/ She's using her mind, she's doing it better.” Exactly what levers are being pulled remain unspecified, but the strangely technical language used brings about an image of something impressive (and attractive). Coupled with the idea of this person being “of material substance” rather than some sort of fantasy, the song becomes a way to show off a partner you take pride in, someone unfiltered in their beauty. It’s kind of corny, but that’s part of its charm.

Home by Now

In spite of being a dance-pop song, “Home by Now,”the fourth song, is more melancholy than some of the other tracks off the album. Reflecting on a past relationship, Gavin questions if things could have worked out. “If I had been able to grin and bear it/ Would we be home by now?” It can be really easy to fall into the habit of asking “what if?” when a relationship ends, especially when you’re the person walking away. It can be really easy to wish for things to have gone differently.

“Home by Now” acknowledges this longing for things to be different. “What is love supposed to feel like anyway?/ Why is it so hot in LA / In late October?” Jumping from a reflection on romantic love to a broader sense of existential dread, Gavin weaves the panic of impending climate crises with the loss that accompanies the end of a relationship. It always feels like time is running out; suddenly a person you once were close to is someone you no longer know, and the concept of home is wildly out of reach.

This urgency is what drives a compromise between one’s needs and what they are willing to accept from a partner. I convince myself that feeling drained is a consequence of loving deeply, a shaky belief that sooner or later crumbles apart. The decision to move forward is one that replenishes, that informs me that love should be easy.

Loose Garment

MUNA keeps a balance between sadness and joy, allowing themselves the breadth to reminisce and regret even in the midst of moving on. “Loose Garment” is indicative of this flexibility. With the inclusion of orchestral elements and a slower, more sentimental rhythm, the song touches upon the process of self-growth. The last few lines within the second verse frame this growth as an affair treated with patience. “The blame is for the birds/ I'll break it up in pieces and feed it to them by the river.” MUNA portrays their pain and the way they decide to work through it with kindness.

The chorus expands on this idea: “Used to wear my sadness like a choker, yeah, it had me by the throat.” I’ve always viewed sadness as binary; it either consumes me entirely or is completely absent from my life. I want to give myself the room to be sad in a more fluid manner–to let it flow rather than have it suffocate me. “Tonight I feel I'm draped in it, like a loose garment/ I just let it flow.”

Shooting Star

“Shooting Star” is the final song on MUNA, and with a similar softness to “Loose Garment”, MUNA sings about a relationship where they choose to distance themselves from the person they have feelings for. “I know what you wanted because I wanted it too/ To be in your light, consumed and erased/ But your light doesn't stay, you take it away too soon/ Then leave me hung over the moon stranded in space.” Realizing their affection towards this person parallels that of a planet orbiting a star, MUNA makes the decision to walk away before these feelings consume them. 

The breakdown in the outro acts as a culmination of sorts, both in sound and in message. “I wish I may, and I think I might regret this either way/ If I let you in my heart or keep you in the dark/ So I'll love you from afar/ You, my shooting star.” Even when faced with mixed feelings about the choice they are making, MUNA comes to the conclusion to love this person from a distance in order to preserve themselves.

This act of prioritizing myself and my own personal growth over pursuing unfulfilling relationships is something that I am still in the process of learning. I tend to hold onto people or experiences for too long–hoping that somehow, someday I can make things work. But at times letting go is the best thing I can do for myself and for others, and I feel that “Shooting Star” presents this sentiment succinctly.

Closing Thoughts

I absolutely adore this album. The songs are expressive yet fun, their versatility an exemplar of an aspect of pop music that makes it so lovely. MUNA is easy to listen to, and their music makes me feel good. I want to feel that way more often, letting my happiness and sadness coexist.






WBRU RADIO (Alternative)

360 (R&B/hip-hop)