Mackeson’s Modern Musings

by Alexandra Hall

As the world has shifted from in-person, 24-hour contact to Zoom calls with embarrassing backgrounds and FaceTime Tinder dates, our relationships with each other could not be more different from what they used to be. As businesses collapse and higher education seems to waver in the face of a recession, it is no doubt that our world will not return to the state of “normal” that we used to be so comfortably acquainted with. But behind closed doors and months of social-distancing and isolation, how will our relationships with each other change moving forward? What was once a careless approach towards hookups and dating is now a more controlled one with more risks associated than a walk of shame or a Plan B pill. Are our feet still moving faster than the rest of our bodies as we approach new relationships, or are we making more calculated decisions about what we desire most?

There couldn’t be a more perfect time for Mackeson’s latest single to come out: a three minute, bass-heavy plea for intimacy in a situation that lacks exactly that. Lyrics like “I hope I don’t regret this” and “even if you don’t trust me, even if you don’t love me, say that you love me” give off a tone of desperation for something deeper than physical interaction.

“Say That You Love Me” sounds like it is in the same vein of his older work, but almost in an entirely different body. While his older releases have a sound similar to a mix of Tame Impala and Two Feet, his newer work reflects a different side of his creative self that is more intimate than ever before. His vocals are elevated, his lyrics more revealing, his rhythm more developed. “Say That You Love Me” is a part of his trio of singles released in 2020, alongside “2 am” and “Don’t Go to Work Today.” Although all three symbolize a shift in Mackeson’s work, “Say That You Love Me” breaths a unique air.

“I wrote that when thinking about my youth and losing my virginity. After I had sex, I felt horrible and scared… was I going to be a dad?,” Mackeson laughed.

Mackeson went on to describe his teen years, harping on common themes of pox-marked confusion, hormone-fueled lust, and what he thought love used to be when he was younger. “Say That You Love Me” glimmers with the youthful naivety of making more out of a situation than might be present. However, this phenomenon isn’t limited by age, and the cyclical trap of wanting more but settling for less transcends a certain time frame in one’s life. After all, who is anyone to say that the relationships we have as teenagers aren’t love? Only time gives us the perspective to realize what is and isn’t love, a perspective based on new experiences.

After tumultuous journeys with both Capitol Records and Atlantic Records, living on a sailboat in California, and desperately trying to fulfill his dreams, Mackeson fell into a tricky relationship with his art, similar to his relationship escapades. His story with the record labels is one we’ve heard a dozen times over, one filled with “you’re gonna be a star!” claims made by sleazy agents with little concern for anything but profit. After falling into what Mackeson describes as the “hit mentality,” he began to take a step back and re-evaluate his work. Once there was no outward pressure or commercialized demands from him, Mackeson began to fully trust his gut. Collaborating with his romantic and creative partner, Hannah Anderson, also known as Sister, Mackeson launched a new era of his sound dedicated to honesty: no strings attached.

Upon our first few connections, Anderson proudly stated that she was Mackeson’s “muse,” a term that has many different implications. In some ways, this label is one of honor. To be seen as one of the sole inspiration for a work of art is nothing short of beautiful. However, there’s still this stereotype in my head of a borderline narcissistic musician who uses “muse” to control romantic partners. Just me?

But when asked about this label and what it meant to Anderson and her relationship, she simply replied, “Well, I’d consider him my muse as well.”

Anderson continued with her perceptions of the label, “I grew up watching movies from the ’60s. There was always a muse. Someone who inspires you continually. We both influence each other both in life and our work.”

This “mutual muse” mentality is what makes listening to both artists individually that much more interesting, as each explores what the modern relationship looks like. Where Mackeson’s sound is somber and sensual, Sister’s sound is more upbeat and thoughtful. Both sounds are unique to themselves but linked together with similar basslines, the same background musicians, and the overarching theme of navigating tricky relationships. The partnership between the two especially shaped “Say That You Love Me,” by giving Mackeson the perspective and tools to create a new version of his sound that is rooted in honesty.

When asked what her viewpoint on the modern relationship and the single’s presentation of it, Anderson said, “The millennial way of dating is non-committal… people are trying to avoid but also find connection at the same time. Everyone is just looking to feel loved and valued.”

As the two progress in their lives and artistic careers, listeners can only expect more sophisticated and earnest work. We can thank the heavens that these two creatives found each other at the time that they did and continue to produce meaningful content in a time where “meaning” is becoming harder and harder to define.

With “Say That You Love Me” being a taste of what the future holds for Mackeson, it is safe to say that the next few years hold bountiful success for the artist.

Even if we slowly begin to itch back towards some sense of normality, these past few months of quarantine have proven to be the reset that our ideas of relationships have needed. Without frequent social events to connect with others, we are forced to rethink what we know about ourselves, our relationships, and what we truly want from others. Some things might not change at all, and Tinder will continue to be a leading force in modern relationships, but when we are all isolated away from each other, will we love any differently or will we continue to settle for less?

Until next time,

Rocka Out

Listen to “Say That You Love Me” here:

IG: @mackeson, @urfavesister

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