Sad Girl Theory is the new EP from Sydney singer-songwriter Le Pie and I’m going to level with you: it had me all hot and bothered. Not in a sexual way. Not in an angry way. More of a gets-under-your-skin kind of way.
I’ve been putting off writing this review for over two weeks and had backed myself into a corner where the big wigs at Happy were breathing down my neck. On a superficial level this might suggest that I’m not particularly enamoured with Sad Girl Theory. Yet I’ve caught myself sing-mumbling half remembered lyrics from the release in the shower since my first listen.
Even more tellingly, the EP’s underlying themes of abandonment, heartbreak, feminine identity and parenthood have burrowed their way into my subconscious. However, since their arrival my mind’s waters have grown rather more turbulent than they were before. My thoughts concerning this release are more complicated than I expected them to be.
It’s not so much a matter of liking or disliking the music, but instead the difficult questions and truths it prodded me towards.
Sad Girl Theory documents the dissolution of a family unit in such an honest and cutting fashion that, much like the tragic circumstance itself, it demands you take a side.
I’ve come to the belief that this is the crux of what had me frozen like a deer in headlights.
At first I found myself taken aback by the one-sided nature of the narrative. Every song on the EP portrays the male protagonist in an overwhelmingly negative light. He comes across as entirely unsympathetic. A punching bag built up from nearly every negative male stereotype; manipulative, domineering, selfish and opportunistic. Initially, I noticed that I was withdrawing from the music and its message because I felt aligned, through no conscious choice, with the villain.
The ridiculousness of this isn’t lost on me; to feel aligned with a character based solely on their gender and not on more important factors such as them being a jerk. Yet I feel to ignore my initial response, despite the uncomfortable subtext, would be to ignore the challenging, transformative power of these songs.
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Art isn’t in the business of appeasement or mollycoddling, and thankfully neither is Le Pie. Illumination and self-expression are far more worthwhile pursuits, and on Sad Girl Theory her aim doesn’t falter.
The music itself straddles a territory that sways between moody dream-pop and guitar driven rock, with the occasional 1950s chamber pop flourish. It’s a winning combination that works well with Le Pie’s nuanced and emotive delivery, as capable of lulling you to sleep (I Don’t Wanna Sing About Boys) as it is of whipping you into a frenzy (Go Unsteady).
The 1950s elements, including the visual aesthetic used to promote the release, are particularly interesting. This period marked an interesting crossroads for feminism where radical thinkers were developing ideologies that were in direct conflict with the established societal norms.
Sad Girl Theory riffs on this conflict, thematically and musically, between the traditional values of that time and how seductive, yet broken they are. Tonight After the Show conveys this motif best where a doo-wop vocal intro is juxtaposed by a sleek, Angel Olsen-esque pop song. It’s clever song writing that hits you in the heart long before you realise its brains… which is pretty much this EP in a nutshell.
Sad Girl Theory is an emotional tour-de-force from an artist that deserves to not only be heard but understood. Just allow me one recommendation: don’t side with the dude. Le Pie and I can both testify that its not worth your time.