Are the twins still Quin-tessential ‘Heartthrob[s]’?
By Erica Isomura, Contributor
Tegan and Sara were probably my high school heartthrobs. Although I didn’t identify as queer, their moody, angst-ridden music spoke to me and I admired their IDGAF haircuts and hilarious onstage banter. I once ran into Tegan in the washroom of the Tinseltown movie theatre, and I swear my heart had never beaten that fast before—not even for a boy. But despite my love for the twins, I was somewhat disappointed with their last album, 2009’s Sainthood, and therefore didn’t give much thought to future records. They’d already been in the business for so long, could I expect much more from their career?
Well, as it turns out, I could; last week Tegan and Sara released their seventh studio album, Heartthrob, and it’s possibly their most ambitious project yet. However, it is challenging to see why the duo describe this record as their “rawest” yet. Lyrics like those of “Love They Say” (“The first time you held my hand I knew I was meant for you/The first time you kissed my lips I knew I was meant for you”) sound like they were written by Taylor Swift rather than the quirky, indie twins themselves. Furthermore, the bold electro-pop that drips from Heartthrob is almost unrecognizable as their work. To put it mildly, their newest release is a departure from the music that’s made a name for the sisters over the past 14 years.
In interviews on CBC Radio, Sara acknowledged that the group’s past records were beautiful and confessional, but also full of dark, sometimes depressing metaphors, which made it hard to tell what she was actually singing about. “I’m actually pretty successful at love and should try to write from a different perspective,” Tegan admitted. This shift in perspective resulted in upfront lyrics that the twins consider to be the most honest they’ve ever written, but at times, “embarrassingly raw.” Unsophisticated lyrics aside, they asserted that these songs weren’t any less meaningful or confessional than their past work. Furthermore, the sisters conceded that they wouldn’t be content to release a record that didn’t reflect the times and their personal growth.
Raw pop? I had my doubts. Nevertheless, I dutifully streamed the album and now, after a week of listening to Heartthrob, I am somehow crazy about this album. I don’t understand what’s come over me; I want to blast it in my non-existent car! There’s really no denying this record’s capability of succeeding in mainstream radio.
While some long-time fans may be disappointed, it isn’t fair to pin “mainstream qualities” as a flaw of their music. Tegan and Sara have already had successful collaborations with Tiësto and Morgan Page, so mainstream exposure isn’t totally new. While the current pop world seems to be dominated with superficiality, it’s about time that someone shook up the pop paradigms. I can’t think of any better pop star counter-stereotypes than two 32-year old queer women from left wing Alberta. As declared by Tegan, “people always complain about pop music and what’s on the radio… what better way to change the world than try to weasel our way in there?”
Heartthrob is available on iTunes and wherever else music is sold. You can listen to the interviews mentioned in this article through http://www.cbc.ca/radio on CBC R3 and Q with Jian Ghomeshi.