Sometimes you hear a song that’s meant for the songwriter. Personal and experimental, it doesn’t care about fitting into mainstream constructs. It exists on its own plane.
“Not in a car!” is one of those songs.
Not very often do you have that total stopped-in-your-tracks moment when you think, “What am I listening to?”
And for better or for worse, I don’t think there is a known genre that quite defines what teddybear does with sound effects, slow-jam beats, and his 2000s-punk-meets-early-T-Pain vocals on the track, “Not in a car!”
He doesn’t make it easy to describe, and judging by the complicated relationship he discusses throughout the track, I think that’s how he wants it to be. It’s a sound you just have to listen to in order to decide if it’s for you; a story not everyone will connect to, but everyone can comprehend.
I came to appreciate the track as I read through the lyrics. Filled with near-rhymes and self-revelations, the song has a great story arc running through it. Switching back and forth between past and present thoughts, it reads like a journal entry or a letter. This is real life, sad and unrefined.
Even without teddybear being explicit or overly specific in detail, I feel like I know what happened. I feel the frustration he gets across on the electronic-tinged, almost-rapped vocals that repeat the desperate lyrics
“But you’ve still got me
If you still want me.”
The repetitive hook goes on to amplify everything he talks about. As he depicts the ups and downs of what appears to be a brutal, unhealthy, but deeply affecting relationship, we’re reminded that the singer still feels something. Even if he shouldn’t.
A twisted anti-romance he can’t look away from.
Whether “Not in a car!” is about a true love or not (and I’m leaning more toward not), the bonds we make with people during the dark periods are often the most meaningful, the ones that are hardest to break, and the ones that hurt the most when they fall apart.
The heavily auto-tuned voice still somehow sounds out of tune—but in an interesting way. How can a voice so purposefully edited still be so raw? teddybear was willing to spill over details that get messier than the usual “I miss you.”
The result is a truly vulnerable song.
“If I could go back I would split those tabs
Just like you wanted to”
And it’s vulnerable not as a love song nor a breakup song, but as an “I’m in pain” song – which isn’t something that’s easy to own up to, much less to sing about. teddybear’s weird, stylistic vocals emphasize that “this-isn’t-how-things-were-supposed-to-go” story he’s trying to get across on the single as he sings at the climax:
“Showing what the bad drugs put you through
How they really never do what they’re ‘sposed to do
But that doing it with you could be something new”
His voice sounds like regret.
As evidenced by teddybear’s raw outpouring of personal hardships in the song, he’s not one to fall victim to judgment. I don’t get the sense that he’s trying to woo or impress pop media. He’s being himself. And that’s something many listeners will come to appreciate and respect.