I’ve long envied the main characters in coming of age movies for the way the world seems to serenade them—always accompanied by a song to fit every changing mood, relationship, and accomplishment.
Being the main character in a movie or acting as if you were the star of your own life requires a certain romanticization of the mundane, a renaissance of your daily rituals, which in films is oftentimes enabled by the accompanying soundtrack, or for us living in reality—a playlist.
The songs that allow you to project an esteemed version of your life on to its regular grain are of an elite breed. This is where 21-year-old singer/songwriter Alyssa May finds her niche.
Her new single “Picture It” is a bedroom pop track that feels right at home in a Netflix teen rom-com—and I say this in the best way possible.
The simple synth-led backbeat, which I argue could benefit from a change of pace, is nonetheless commonplace in the contemporary coming of age movie soundtrack genre—take, for example, Rhye’s “Open” from Booksmart or Lauv’s “I Like Me Better” from To All the Boys I Loved Before.
Each of these songs, including “Picture It,” are electricity encapsulated. Yet rather than producing a sharp jolt, they capture the power of the growing tension that underlies a change in the course of a narrative. For May, this is the initial electric feeling of falling in love.
I felt something new for the first time
Your eyes look like diamonds at night
Yet while “Picture It’s” warm, pop ambiance is sonically adverse to May’s self-described country roots, its simplicity allows for her more country-esque, heart-filled lyrics to shine.
I saw a life with you
We weren’t official but I, I loved you
And I know you felt it too inside your chest
These colloquial lyrics reveal a raw emotion that only adds to the heart of May’s narrative, yet the bluntness with which they are delivered reveals the intention of this song: a carefully crafted confession of affection. However, considering that May wrote on her blog, “When I say these songs are my diary, I’m not lying,” listeners are reminded of the fact that these thoughts are insular. In other words, her love letter was never sent.
The bridge only descends further into this pit of emotion. Here, the lyrical content yields toward a darker tone creating an almost haunting juxtaposition with May’s increasingly soft vocals.
Could you picture it babe
Coffee on sunday
My smile after work
God this really hurts
What am I supposed to say
You’re the one that got away
Perhaps more jarring than her admission that she is in pain from the aftershocks of the relationship is the depth to which she has thought this love into false existence. Not only does she longingly recollect the past, but she has imagined a detailed future with a love that was never concrete to begin with.
Yet despite the utterly personal and rather heart-wrenching content of her lyrics, May packages them in an easily digestible, rose-tinted manner that begs for the empathy of her listeners, much like every good coming of age story does.
Ultimately, I think “Picture It’s” timely and simple but effective content renders it the perfect soundtrack for the next big coming of age character’s narrative. But until it finds a home on the silver screen, I will definitely use it as an aid to romanticize my own life.