Art & Culture
How Best Coast Updated ‘Boyfriend’ To Be An Inclusive Anthem, 10 Years Later
Provided During the summer of 2010 — the “Summer of Summer,” as it’s retroactively been dubbed — few songs sounded as much like the season as Best Coast’s honeyed “Boyfriend.” These two-and-a-half minutes of hazy surf-pop breezed by in a rush of oceanic sun, with singer Bethany Cosentino seemingly pining for a guy with the…
During the summer of 2010 — the “Summer of Summer,” as it’s retroactively been dubbed — few songs sounded as much like the season as Best Coast’s honeyed “Boyfriend.” These two-and-a-half minutes of hazy surf-pop breezed by in a rush of oceanic sun, with singer Bethany Cosentino seemingly pining for a guy with the innocent charm of a middle-school crush. “One day I’ll make him mine and we’ll be together all the time,” she sings. “We’ll sit and watch the sunrise and gaze into each other’s eyes.”
The aura of romance and liberated love that reside in Cosentino’s gliding chorus didn’t just define summer; they also led the song to become an unexpected LGBTQ+ anthem over the past decade. Fans had misheard (and celebrated) its main hook as “I wish she was my boyfriend” and used it to soundtrack wedding proposals and custom playlists. “This album literally helped & healed me through the toughest time of my life when I was outed & kicked out of my home at the age of 18,” a fan named Lauren tweeted during Pride Month.
But in June, Cosentino revealed the song’s painful backstory on Twitter. “‘Boyfriend’ is honestly about a co-dependent, addictive, unhealthy obsession with someone so I will GLADLY hand it over to the LGBTQ+ community to make it their own. For real,” she wrote. “Take it. It belongs to you now.”
“To watch people take it and turn it into this song that they’ve used in terms of proposing to their boyfriends, proposing to their girlfriends, helping them come to terms with their own sexual identity… I’m truly like, thank God that you guys took this and made it your own, because I hate it,” Cosentino told MTV News with a laugh. “That really makes me just feel really good, to know that something that I created that came from … an unhealthy place has been taken and transformed into something that is really positive and healthy for people.”
When she performs the song now with Best Coast’s other half, the multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno, she channels that positivity. You can hear it on a livestream celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Crazy For You, the album “Boyfriend” kicks off, tonight (August 14) via Seated, as well as on an updated version of the song where Cosentino uses inclusive language. “I wish she was my girlfriend,” she sings, also using the word “partner” as well as they and them pronouns. The song was a 24-hour exclusive on August 7 for charity; Best Coast raised over $2,000 directly for the Trevor Project.
“It’s truly a bummer song,” Cosentino said. “But when I think of it now from this place of people using it as an anthem for themselves and for their sexuality, and for their songs that they put on playlists for their partners and things like this, this song has a whole new meaning for me.”
The decade-long journey of “Boyfriend” reveals that an artist’s intent is just one factor that plays into a creative work’s reception, especially in an age of social media-boosted fan edits and wish-fulfillment remixes. It’s also a good example of an artist celebrating this pivot and leaning into a better understanding of themselves that comes with time and growth. That’s something Cosentino’s friend, former tour mate, and livestream guest Hayley Williams knows well.
The duo became pals in 2012, and five years later, Best Coast and Paramore shared a North American 2017 trek, including a Nashville stop where Williams and Cosentino sang “Boyfriend” together onstage. “That tour, I think, really bonded us in a way, because we were both going through breakups, and we were both dealing with just unpacking a lot of trauma and things that you realize at the time you didn’t think were super bad and unhealthy,” Cosentino said. “But in hindsight, you’re like, oh fuck. I think that just experiencing that time with her was really powerful.”
In 2018, while performing with her band, Paramore, Williams announced they’d be effectively retiring “Misery Business,” a signature song, from their live set. At the heart of the decision was a line in its second verse — “Once a whore, you’re nothing more” — that, as she’d grown into her own feminism in the decade since the song’s release, she no longer felt comfortable singing. “I know it’s one of the band’s biggest songs but it shouldn’t be used to promote anything having to do with female empowerment or solidarity,” she wrote on Instagram earlier this year, when Spotify included the song on a “Women in Rock” playlist.
The ease of social media allows artists to explain why “growth and progression,” as Williams wrote, can lead to a reevaluation of their work. Cosentino understands, and even after 11 years on Twitter, she still rides for being able to spread positivity via the platform, even as she deeply knows its faults. “You can put information out there so quickly and it can reach all these people,” she said. “You also can find out very quickly who you know is a piece of shit and has horrible ideas and politics.”
There’s a third option: Tweets can spark genuine dialogue between artists and fans, especially as fans reach out in earnest with specific questions. One such fan referenced “Misery Business” in a July tweet directed at John Darnielle, who’s been the voice behind The Mountain Goats for nearly 30 years. His 1994 song “Going to Georgia” is a fan favorite, fiercely beloved for its compelling mini-narrative about a guy with a gun showing up to see an unexplored “you” character and the soaring drama in Darnielle’s vocal delivery. But he’s since disavowed it, saying the song glamorizes toxic masculinity — a conclusion the tweeter named Christie asked him to reexamine.
“Hey @mountain_goats as a woman and feminist going to georgia is a super cool song, one of your coolest in fact, and you should re-avow it,” the fan wrote. “Same to @yelyahwilliams with misery business.”
Darnielle responded with candor, as he’s often done when previously asked about the song on Tumblr or when fans request it at live shows. “Yeah I mean you’d have to’ve had my experience of some of the the bro-iest of bros sharing their reactions to it over a period of twenty years to really see it from my POV,” he tweeted. “I get where you’re coming from but you see how our perspectives are necessarily different, yeah?”
“I don’t play ‘Going to Georgia’ anymore because I can’t really reconcile how buoyant it is with how much I dislike its narrator,” he previously elaborated. “When I wrote it, I enjoyed that tension, but I was more of an aesthete then and now I think more with my gut. My gut tells me the whole deal with ‘Going to Georgia’ is bogus, so that’s that.”
Time moves on, and signifiers change. “Misery Business” and “Going to Georgia” get retired; “Boyfriend” becomes an LGBTQ+ anthem. Meanwhile, some remain constant. Snacks — Cosentino’s beloved fluffy orange cat and Crazy For You cover star — remains Best Coast’s mascot well into his golden years. He’s even got his own merch, naturally, as she’s had him for 12 years and counting.
“He has some health issues and stuff, but this is the most time I’ve ever spent with him,” Cosentino said of the past five months. Best Coast had a 2020 tour lined up in support of their 2020 album, Always Tomorrow, and they did play a brief run of shows before COVID-19 shut down the music industry. But the open schedule has had its benefits, ones that recall those balmy days of summer 2010. “It’s nice to just sit around with Snacks and watch TV the way that it was in the early days. He’s the best.”
Art & Culture
Janelle Monáe Leads The Revolution In Stirring ‘Turntables’ Video
YouTube “We are in the middle of a revolution right? What’s a revolution without a song and a song without a revolution.” That’s the question the Grammy-winning artist Janelle Monáe posed to Entertainment Weekly when describing her latest single, “Turntables.” The song was released on and flips between cleverly rapped lines about “liberation, elevation, education” and a harmonic…
“We are in the middle of a revolution right? What’s a revolution without a song and a song without a revolution.”
That’s the question the Grammy-winning artist Janelle Monáe posed to Entertainment Weekly when describing her latest single, “Turntables.” The song was released on and flips between cleverly rapped lines about “liberation, elevation, education” and a harmonic refrain with clear gospel influences. It’s Monáe’s take on a contemporary protest song, a call for a political sea change, in the vein of, say, Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” or Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.”
Courtesy of Atlantic RecordsAnd on Tuesday (September), Monáe released a moving music video — or, as she calls it, an emotion picture — that solidified that message. The visual opens and closes with the singer walking along the beach in a beige trench coat and military cap. At times, she can be seen singing into a retro microphone before an American flag; in others, she moves through staged breakfast scenes, with a family reading through newspaper headlines as they mouth her lyrics. The visual flashes through archival and contemporary footage depicting inspirational figures past and present: Where one scene shows the model and activist Jillian Mercado at a photo shoot, another depicts a conversation with lifelong activist Angela Davis.
What rings true without is a hopeful cry for change and for equality, and a recognition of those who have been leading that fight for decades. Monáe wrote “Turntables” for the new Amazon Studios documentary, All In: The Fight for Democracy, that shines a light on voter suppression, particularly through the lens of Stacey Abrams’s failed bid for the Georgia governorship. “Right now, I am focused on turning the election in our favor,” Monáe told Entertainment Weekly, “and I hope this song can inspire those who are on the ground doing the work.”
Art & Culture
Joe Keery’s Reinvention, Mxmtoon’s Carly Rae Jepsen Collab, And More Songs We Love
Getty Images/April Blum The search for the ever-elusive “bop” is difficult. Playlists and streaming-service recommendations can only do so much. They often leave a lingering question: Are these songs really good, or are they just new? Enter Bop Shop, a hand-picked selection of songs from the MTV News team. This weekly collection doesn’t discriminate by…
Getty Images/April Blum
The search for the ever-elusive “bop” is difficult. Playlists and streaming-service recommendations can only do so much. They often leave a lingering question: Are these songs really good, or are they just new?
Enter Bop Shop, a hand-picked selection of songs from the MTV News team. This weekly collection doesn’t discriminate by genre and can include anything — it’s a snapshot of what’s on our minds and what sounds good. We’ll keep it fresh with the latest music, but expect a few oldies (but goodies) every once in a while, too. Get ready: The Bop Shop is now open for business.
St. Vincent ft. Yoshiki: “New York”
St. Vincent, the intuitive musical goddess that she is, must have sensed our collective need for another quarantine ballad. Enter “New York [Feat. Yoshiki],” a classical arrangement of the standout single from 2017’s Masseduction. An added string section courtesy of Yoshiki, a Japanese multi-instrumentalist, beautifully complements the song’s original piano instrumentals. What more can I say? “New York isn’t New York / Without you, love” just hits different in the middle of a pandemic. —Sam Manzella
Djo: “Keep Your Head Up”
Last year, Joe Keery (of Stranger Things fame) released a glossy solo album under the moniker Djo. It was titled Twenty Twenty, and its sparkling arrangements ended up being quite far removed from the overall vibe of 2020 the year, but who could fault him for his optimism? Keery has also long been a contributing member of Chicago psych band Post Animal, but Djo is simply Joe — and latest “Keep Your Head Up” feels like several Joes ripping open a vortex in the funk-time continuum. This is a groove, peppered with buzzy synths and icy falsetto and an honest-to-god sax part. It’s akin to Todd Terje doing Tame Impala, a lightheaded cocktail rush that feels both clubby and bedroom ambitious. Positively galactic. —Patrick Hosken
Mxmtoon ft. Carly Rae Jepsen: “OK On Your Own”
When Mxmtoon’s Maia said she recorded “OK On Your Own” for the girls and the gays, she wasn’t kidding. The mellow bedroom-pop bop soundtracks a journey of self-reflection after a breakup, complete with the soft ukulele instrumentals that put the 19-year-old singer-songwriter on the map. Is it revelatory? No, but with pop icon Carly Rae Jepsen lending her sugary-sweet vocals to the second verse, it doesn’t have to be. Now I’m just waiting for “Party for Two.” —Sam Manzella
Video Age: “Aerostar”
Pleasure Line, the third album from emerging indie pop quartet Video Age, delivers perfectly escapist ’80s new wave vibes for when you need to get outta 2020 for just a moment. “Aerostar” is its punchy center, a hip-twisting, shoulder-shuffling groove that delivers quirky robot dance commands (“Slide to the left, now! Shimmy to the right!”) over hoppin’ funk synths and a kickin’ drum machine. It all harkens to a simpler time, one where dance floors were actually a real thing. Oh, the ’80s! —Terron Moore
Ruel: “As Long As You Care”
About a year ago, Australian middle-part heartthrob Ruel told MTV News that for him, “songwriting is exaggerating to an extent.” On his latest, the technicolor, soulful “As Long As You Care,” his exaggeration is so seamless, you’d be forgiven for believing the 17-year-old is actually a time traveler. The neo-soul groove he rides propels everything upward, even as the sound cheekily looks backward. “As Long As You Care” has one amazing hook, coupled with sonic candy that makes his upcoming third EP, Bright Lights, Red Eyes (out October 23) one to watch. —Patrick Hosken
Alycia Bella ft. Boogie: “Cue the Sun”
Something magical happens two-and-a-half minutes into “Cue the Sun,” the exploratory new collab between striking R&B voice Alycia Bella and rapper Boogie. After piping in the aural equivalent of stage smoke via jazzy piano and gorgeous vocalizations — “It feel like being lost in the right direction” — Bella’s song enters a more sparkly realm for Boogie’s recitations. By the end, you’re lighter, like your mind’s been cleared of all the cobwebs. Cue the sun. —Patrick Hosken
Carly Rae Jepsen
Art & Culture
Michael Love Michael’s XO Is A Service To Their Queer Ancestors
Ross Days It can be tempting, as a writer, to compartmentalize, to define by a set of fixed words or parameters. Pinpoint the detail about your subject that most interests you — an unexpected gesture, a prime soundbite pulled from an interview — and flesh it out into a full story. But in the case…
It can be tempting, as a writer, to compartmentalize, to define by a set of fixed words or parameters. Pinpoint the detail about your subject that most interests you — an unexpected gesture, a prime soundbite pulled from an interview — and flesh it out into a full story. But in the case of the New York-based artist Michael Love Michael, who last month self-released their debut album XO, it’s simply not possible, in part because they do so much.
As the former culture editor at Paper magazine, the 32-year-old “Cancer-Leo cusp,” who grew up between Chicago and Gary, Indiana, crafted celebrated profiles of such disparate musicians as Paramore’s Hayley Williams and cyborg sensation Poppy, while also serving up weekly playlists packed with the best bops from Megan Thee Stallion, Yves Tumor, and beyond. One day, it seemed they were stomping a runway in New York in a leather tank top and a cherry pout for the queer designer Willie Norris; the next, they were escaping to a farm to study permaculture at an undisclosed location “out West.”
XO, by design, rejects easy categorization. The collection, which was produced in under a year in collaboration with Michael’s longtime creative partner Rich Dasilva, fluctuates dramatically between glittering power-pop — as on the synth-heavy “6 Jaguars,” which dissolves at the bridge into a biting rap (“They call me bitch if they don’t like me… Does that tell you who I’m voting for, honey?”) — and lush, emotional ballads. Michael’s voice boasts a similarly wide range, whether as a groaning whisper in a spoken-sung segment closing “The Hatred,” or as a looping, crystalline falsetto as they perform as their own backup singer on “Blueberry.”
Their first comprehensive artistic statement, Michael tells MTV News, was intended to dispel any notion of essentialization, particularly as a Black, nonbinary artist making their mark in the industry (in June, they left Paper, citing its treatment of its Black staffers). “I think Black, queer people can sometimes just be lumped together in sort of this really offensive, monolithic way, and it’s just a way of me saying that I have multitudes,” they say. “I am a very tender, spiritual, sensitive person. And I’m also fierce.”
Ross DaysMTV News: Did you record XO while you were on the farm, or was that all done before?
Michael: I basically worked on it from April until late July, so there was part of it that was finished here, but most of it was done during quarantine in New York, four or five tracks. I started recording my vocals on my iPhone and my computer, and I’m really happy with how it all turned out, because, at least in my opinion, none of it sounds like it was done at home. It has a uniformity, and it sounds kind of expansive in a lot of ways.
MTV News: I really connected with the song “Blueberry,” and there was this sound on it that reminded me almost of a dulcimer, though I couldn’t quite make it out. Given that much of it was produced at home, was there a lot of live instrumentation on this?
Michael: So there’s acoustic guitar, there’s whistling, there are actual finger snaps, and then the rest is electronic. So then there’s kind of the 808 bass drone and there’s that sound, which is like a fake electronic guitar. But I’m glad you like “Blueberry.” “Blueberry” is very, very sweet and comes from a sad place.
MTV News: Would you tell me about it?
Michael: OK, so “Blueberry” is about an unrequited love. When I was a teenager, I had this really intense crush on this guy who was closeted and involved with this girl as a way to kind of conceal, as we all do when we’re going through that journey. But we always had a connection, and it was very kind of the teenage lust kind of factor. And then, after high school, he went to the Iraq War and died.
There are lines about going off to war but also being brave and being who you are. There’s this line about purple hearts beating wild with red, red blood — the idea of a Purple Heart for bravery, while also referencing the bravery it requires to be out as yourself. There’s also the idea that both of us are sacrificing something, my jealousy and my self-reflection, and the blueberry gates became a place I would go in my mind when I would think of him. I wanted to find a way to talk about having a closeted relationship full of young lust and love, and to speak about what’s involved when two people sacrifice parts of themselves to make things work that can’t work, ultimately.
MTV News: What are some other songs on the album that feel special for you?
Michael: This is almost like my second coming out, as an artist and sharing my music with everybody. Even though I’ve been making music since I was 16, I’ve never actually had the courage until now to release anything. “XO” is my favorite track, because that’s the thesis of the project. It’s about overcoming some of my own personal demons to love myself enough to realize I had something to share and something to say, like a love letter to a damaged former self.
“Mother’s Day” is another one that I really love, because it’s kind of strange and cryptic. This one is more about people’s relationship to all things maternal, how you have to be a reciprocal give-and-take dynamic with whatever those things are, whether that’s the earth, someone you look up to who is a femme person or a mother figure. It has echoes of my own relationship with my mother and my grandmother. There’s a line about planting a garden — “Every Mother’s Day, I plant a garden for you / Every Mother’s Day, I water your flowers that bloom” — and that was something I used to do for my grandmother as a kid.
MTV News: Do you have a good relationship with your mom and your grandmother?
Michael: With my grandmother, yes. With my mother, that’s something that’s very much in process. It’s a tricky song. It’s really complex, obviously. But I love it for that reason, and I love that I feel like I’m learning how to be really good at writing about things that are personal broader and nuanced ways. I can be descriptive and I can also not be descriptive, and all of it’s intentional. It kind of reminds me of a St. Vincent, Brian Eno vibe. It feels kind of stompy, crunchy, stadium rock or something.
MTV News: What made now feel like a good time to release an album and share this project?
Michael: It was something that I didn’t intend to happen. I was happy with just having some demo recordings and maybe an EP released on SoundCloud, and then I had friends who really encouraged me to think bigger. Also, I had my own aspirations that I buried because I was trying to be realistic and I was trying to hold down full-time jobs and I was trying to be sort of a traditional careerist, and it’s just like, no bitch. Don’t dull your own shine, don’t gaslight yourself just because society gaslights you.
And so, that’s what kind of really motivated me to kind of come out with it all, and I just feel really grateful for the ability to have unlocked this avenue of creativity. Even for this to happening, for us to be talking about my album for MTV is fucking cool. Everything is luxury now, I just get so excited about everything else because creativity begets more creativity. So I don’t take any of it for granted, it’s so fucking cool.
MTV News: Yeah, I can really relate with feeling vulnerable in sharing something creative.
Michael: This is an exercise in proving something to myself. I really do believe, if you see something missing and you have the capacity to provide or be that missing link, then do that. If you feel empowered and you feel like you can and you have the resources and the energy, do that. Where queer voices are sort of becoming less and less marginalized, people want to hear what it is we have to say. Remember that there are so many people who fought and died for so much of the freedom that I and many of us take for granted. Part of being a person with a voice and sharing it is also being in service to your ancestors who came before you.
MTV News: In listening to XO as a whole, there are songs that are very soft and almost indie-leaning in a way, and then you also have these songs that are very fierce and very hard. I wondered what your intention was, or were you expressing different sides of yourself?
Michael: Well, I love that you picked up on the contrast, because that was the exact point. I definitely wanted to present duality. It’s an introduction to me as a musician and, hopefully, if there ever were any expectations, it surprises, maybe it shocks. Maybe it’s exactly what people expect — I have no fucking idea. I called it XO because I thought of X-O as sort of an expression of contrast, because it’s like hugs and kisses are sort of opposite things, but then so is the idea of being open and being closed.
I think Black, queer people can sometimes just be lumped together in sort of this really offensive, monolithic way, and it’s just a way saying that I have multitudes. I’m a complex, fully realized human being. So it was important for me to show a hard edge and a softer, gentler side, because at the end of the day, I am a very tender, spiritual, sensitive person, and I’m also fierce. The Cancer-Leo cusp is really that, it’s very that.