Ontario-based pop-punk band Otherwives made a strong musical debut earlier this year with the release of its first EP, Grace. With intricate yet nicely-balanced instrumentals and strong, not-quite-nasally vocals, the music is catchy and the melodies are unexpected and cool. There are a lot of moving parts, yet they all fit together quite nicely in a driving pop-punk EP.
The music itself is catchy and unexpected; the only thing I take issue with is the lyrical content. As a musician, it is far too easy to fall into the trope of taking influence from unreciprocated feelings, but when pop-punk bands, in particular, turn the blame onto the woman in the situation, that is when things get problematic.
Not every song on the EP follows this pattern; “…At Night” and “No Progress”, the first and last songs, respectively, are not about women. But on “Built The Same”, frontman Zach Mesic sings, “All you wanted was to/Call me your friend…But I know someday/That these feelings will change,” showing frustration with the so-called “friend zone” and not accepting that she just might not be into him. Later, on “Catching Feelings”, the angry lyrics blame the woman for catching unreciprocated feelings, and Mesic spits, “She coulda told me that she’d use me as a weapon/Holdin’ on to those thoughts made it harder for me/To get closer to that so-called perfection.”
This may get written off as a bitter, feminist rant as so many often are, but the problem with lyrics such as these is that it is setting a poor example for male and female fans alike. Pop-punk is notorious for having young, impressionable teenage girls as fans, so you can see how it would be problematic for those girls to hear that it is their fault for not loving someone back.
I take particular issue with the fourth track, “I Can’t Take Criticism”, which seems okay until the chorus says, “What’s a boy supposed to do when there’s no one to heal his wounds?” implying that he needs a girl to “fix” him, when in reality, nobody can fix him except himself. When I was in high school, I had an older male friend who told me repeatedly that I was not enough to fix his mental illness and that it was my fault that he wasn’t getting any better, and it was one of the most damaging friendships I have ever been a part of.
While the music on Otherwives’s Grace EP is quality, the message that it sends is problematic. But as this is the band’s debut, one can hope that they will change it up on the next release and perhaps not place the blame on women for not reciprocating feelings.