Songs of 2014
by Gabriel Valdez
Have You Heard? is a stream of song recommendations, many of which will be new to you. We’ll focus on the music of 2014 to start, and we’ll be highlighting a lot of smaller, more independent artists.
Let’s inaugurate this with the most terrifying song of the year, and one of the few for which I’ll ever give a trigger warning: “Boris” by Lo-Fang.
The excellent original song by female duet Boy was an Anais Mitchell-like descent into an inescapable moment. It became louder and more chaotic as it progressed, blurring the lines between consent and coercion. Where the plot and their relationship ends is up for debate.
In covering it, Lo-Fang switches the song’s perspective to that of the man, ditching nuance and lending a more directed sociopathy:
“Baby, aren’t you hungry?
I could give you codeine,
I could get my car keys.
Oh, what a cute dress,
right now it’s useless,
I heard your boyfriend’s out of town.”
The titular Boris’s intent becomes clearer, and the chorus “You should get out of town, too,” is no longer a mutual suggestion, but a threatening ultimatum. Where Boy’s original female perspective became a chaos of pressures and confused motives, Lo-Fang’s male perspective keeps control of the moment, using harmonies and a staccato violin-and-acoustic guitar duo as if weapons all aimed at the woman he’s coercing, manipulating, and finally kicking away as if a used piece of trash.
Released in 2013, but not widely available until this year, Lo-Fang’s “Boris” is a terrifying snapshot into a mentality that, between the Isla Vista shootings, the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, and GamerGate, has contributed toward pushing women toward a second-class citizenship.
If it’s depressing that this is – to me – the song that most exemplifies the battles of 2014, it’s also reassuring that Lo-Fang (Maryland-based Matthew Hemerlein) can both capture and criticize a moment like this through such powerful music. It reminds me that art is still the best way to change people’s minds and open them to new perspectives.
Credit where credit’s due – Have You Heard? is Vanessa Tottle’s brainchild, influenced by Rock Paper Shotgun’s Have You Played? feature.