Saccharine love songs are always a bit of a hit or miss. And by that I mean, it’s totally contextual to the exact moment you find it, not its inherent worth.
When Bridget Rian intros into her newest single, “Milk” with, “If my skin were milk, you would drink it,” there are those of us that are gonna sink in and think about their significant other, and others who are gonna listen, shut their eyes tights, and eke out, “I’m soooooo happy for you…”
But here’s the thing: I’m a champion for the saccharine sweet. In the singer-songwriter sphere, it’s easy to get pretentious. Sometimes it feels like everybody’s elbowing one another to state how loudly they take their coffee black, and their folk with scratch.
In fact, Rian’s discography to this point has been remarkable mournful – “Trailer Park Cemetery,” “Funeral,” Talking to Ghosts – and her most recent EP, Screaming at the Stars, covers the most woeful topic of all: heartbreak.
So when I got a hold of her newest single, “Milk,” for her upcoming project Nuclear Family, I was shocked to hear something so unapologetically hopeful, future forward, and adoring. It still features the typical Rian charm: the mundane made magical, lyrics with a little edge (it’s not, “Thanks for always being by my side,” but “Thanks for being the type of person to let my blood stain your hand after I get us into an accident”). A strong shift from “why do u lie” and its unapologetic ire (“I’ll never listen to Dave /’Cause anything that I know you love right now I have to hate“), Rian’s first verse in “Milk” is an endless love letter of hypotheticals where the right person just keeps showing up.
Well, I’ll be darned.
Set by a peaceful sliding bass keeping steady beat, the lightest of drums, and ringing guitars, her lover’s many fantastical, imagined feats have an absurd humor that is uniquely charming: drinking her skin like milk, making a wig of his own hair for her, holding her as she dies on the side of the road. But it’s in the chorus, when the instrumentation picks up a simple two tone guitar lick, that Rian leads into a revelation softly profound, masterfully redirecting:
“Cause that’s it, I think we found it,
the things my parent never had
and maybe yours still do
It’s not how they described it
It’s not as dramatic
‘Cause you’re holding me and I’m still holding you
And that’s what we do”
Cause that’s it: the fact she knows that in every worst case scenario, he’s the safest thing – that’s love. It’s not as dramatic, it’s simply showing up. It’s such a stunningly simple conclusion, full of a roaring sincerity, that when Rian croons, “And that’s what we do-OO-oo-OO-oo-OO,” it’s clear that this love is more than fantasy. It’s the kind of moment where people will inevitably turn to their loved one and give a little eye, that ephemereal nudge during a shared song that says, “She’s saying what I can’t right now.”
In short: the song is bound to stir hearts closer.
The following verse and last chorus barely ramp up – they don’t need to. She describes the simple delights – arguing during minigolf, carving initials into wood, the real and grounded ways to love another. The beauty here is the verses’ parallelism: the way they laugh during minigolf just as profound as her imagined scenarios. I’m reminded of Alanis Morissette’s “Head Over Feet,” a song so frankly shocked by the emotional stability and health of an unconditional and kind lover. It also bears the soft, but emotive sound of Paramore’s “Only Exception,” and, yes, it’s Rian’s Lover era, but the song’s understated, drive-along sound that plucks a surprising inner chord rings most like Swift’s “invisible string.”
While Rian rightly claims a country pop/rock sound, her oeuvre attests to a uniquely emo lilt. Whether mournful, hopeful – bitter, or saccharine, her unique lyricism and ability to warp words around a rhythmic staccato make each song an intriguing and exciting piece (one of her influences, Fiona Apple, would be proud). Add in some stellar production and a sterling voice? Might as well call it magic.
Bridget Rian’s music is for anyone, but those jumping in now are at a particular advantage. Rian has an impressive discography to dive into that makes the tonal shift of this new era even more satisfying. Whether single, or in the throes of love, “Milk” is the kind of song you hope pops up while you’re driving past a particularly sweet breeze, and makes you sing along. ‘Cause that’s what we do~!