When they really shifted focus, It was disturbed. As guitarist and maker Naomi McPherson has been putting it to the New York Times lately, “At RCA, and we were like you, We’re staying true to ourselves, we’re going to make interesting, indie-pop music, We’re not here to make hits.'” Guitarist Josette Maskin has explained the disconnect between working with a brand that didn’t often recall “exactly what to do” with a queer group creating confidently, openly queer song. But after RCA had died the team and Phoebe Bridgers joined them to their Saddest Factory influence, they’re creating not only the greatest entertaining song of their job, and also the greatest unabashedly popular music. On their self-titled third album, MUNA staged completely into their position as singers and advisors, giving soft directions to love, clean yourself, and joyous residing your truth.
The trio’s path from alt-pop to glittering music influenced by The 2000s podcast music arrives without compromising either their self-expression or their musicality. In their vids, they pay homage to the Y2K queer irony, But I’m a Cheerleader, fly line-dancing, a touch move. Wire singer Katie Gavin told pitchforkcom that she was a fan of the song, “There have been moments where it feels like we’re almost doing a drag performance of being pop stars.” In their prison photographers search youtube for a video “What Do I Want” that’s what they do, wearing the skin-tight glitter, side-swept thumps, and blouses of early-aughts newspaper visuals. But there’s still a distinct absence of snark to the full-hearted music production they give on MUNA.
The Radical Joy of MUNA’s Queer Pop
This new era launched in the form of summer-crush music “Silk Chiffon” a partnership with a pink-haired Bridgers for whom the refreshing rack — “Life’s so fun, life’s so fun!” — snapshots a joy sure ephemeral they can barely be assumed. Something else glittering music, “Home /News /Books /2019 /03 /06 7” embraces the rhizomatous real-estate catchphrase to indulge in post-breakup musings about what could have been. Hard-hitting, eudaimonic “What I Want” is what vocalist Gavin has explained as “an adult coming out of the boat.” Amid triumphant songs about dropping pictures and dancing openly in a gay bar, the song rocket wish leaf space to lament the period you ruined before you realized what you were lacking: “I’ve expended way too many years/Not understanding what it is/What I wish I could do.”
MUNA shines in this no-holds-barred mode, with boot-stomping percussion and hooks that stick like last night’s glitter. The opening four tracks — with their proulsive beats and repeated lyrical allusions to driving, roller skating, and running — have an irresistible forward motion, culminating in the band’s most ambitious song to date, “Runner’s High.” It wouldn’t sound out of place on a playlist alongside Charli XCX’s Crash or Rina Sawayama’s SAWAYAMA, with its full-throttle drums, strobe-lit choruses, and distant echoes of UK garage nostalgia. Where else?, here’s a hyperreal gloss to the unapologetically horny “No Idea!” (co-written with Mitski) a deeply satisfying singalong moment with the backing vocals that fill “Solid concrete.”
It’s not all that full-on. MUNA also indulges in soft-touch country pop inspired by Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour and more downbeat pop, delicate moods, with mixed results. On “Loose Garment” the album’s strongest ballad, Gavin offers one of the poignant similes that are her calling card: “Used to touch my heartbreak like a necklace, hey, It had me by the neck/Tonight I experienced I’m hung in it, like a loose garment.” She mastered the technique of turning a single image in her hands so that it reflects light from many angles, but the tender country-rock song “Handle Me” Lacks a similar level of complexity, and by the time we reach the sparse closing track he’s gonna be gone “Shooting Stars” the technique of comparing a new crush to a meteor streaking across the sky starts to feel repetitive. Now that MUNA have nailed this kind of classical pop songcraft, one wonders what they would do if they experimented more with structure and form.
That MUNA will have to abandon a major brand before creating their many radio-friendly music isn’t generally a phenomenon. Among the most exciting current pop music, like PinkPantheress’ innovative TikTok strikes, Little Simz’s lyric music, or Sawayama’s theatre music collections, arrives from the edges. MANA Celebrations, proclaiming song benefits from having the area to be real to themselves — an area that several actors don’t consider under the educational eyes of a major label. Musically and subtly, MUNA praises the freedom to be free from the ways in which others see you. “I’m not just some kind of minimal cliche/[…] That’s sure pastiche” Gavin sighs on “Kind of a Girl.” MUNA does not feel the need to back down, nor answer to anyone’s vision but their own.