Unrequited love is a rather outdated subject that evokes scorned women in evening dresses scowling at another twirling with the most eligible bachelor at the debutante ball. Unrequited validation, however, could not be more relevant in our age of instant gratification. Niall McDowell proposes what they rightfully call “the single most important question for the culture.” Every time we upload a profile picture or Instagram post, we are asking, “Do you think I’m pretty?”. More often than not we’re waiting for that reaction from that certain someone. Their new saccharine sweet single celebrates this self-aware desperation in all its butterfly-sick glory.
It’s Niall’s first song backed by a full band (at Start Together Studios with the help of Ryan McGroarty of Beauty Sleep) and it’s inundated with a flood of yearning guitar arpeggios and their effortlessly pained bass voice. When the chorus comes in with that shaker I am overcome with nostalgia for staring at my phone anxiously awaiting a reply that will make or break my day/heart. The verse’s guitar line is a simple progression from major to minor that condenses this quick-to-ruin sensitivity, and it’s catchy as all hell to boot.
“A chaotic ode to the moments within a relationship that are too specific to call out, in fear of seeming too much”, the uncomfortable memories recalled are simultaneously specific and misty enough to be relatable to anyone who’s invested too much time and energy willing infatuation into romance; asking if they remember such and such a time with a detachment that will muffle the shattering of the preconception that this “boyfriend that wasn’t really a boyfriend” matched Niall’s level of care. Gratefully, with the bridge they accept the realisation that “I know what I need to do,/I need to stop relying on you”. That’s a crucial part of regaining self-respect, and an inspiring way to end a tune Niall McDowell has packed so much into barely 3 minutes.