Portraits #4: “Outkast”

if you just want to hear the song: soundcloud or youtube
if you want to read as genius annotations: go here


back in 2010 when i wrote this song, i was in my second year of college, which meant two things: i was listening to a lot of music, and i was getting myself into a lot of complicated relationships. during that time, there was a girl i became friends with, and we developed what i think was my first real platonic relationship, in the sense that we felt deeply for each other, but none of it was really sexual. it was super confusing and ended up not being that great. we had to stop being friends.

that’s the kind of drama i like to write about, but it turns out that platonic relationships aren’t really the conventional stuff of pop music. so much of pop is about desperation: you just want someone to love you back, you can’t stand to see them with someone else, you are so in love you just have to bust out a choreographed dance, etc. but what if you feel passionately for someone, and yet you don’t want to indulge in desperation? how do you go about writing a love song that’s not about being in love?



there are two samples in this song: , the beginning synth section is from Outkast’s “Da Art of Storytellin’ (Part 1)”, and then obviously the vocal sample in the chorus is from The Cardigans’ “Lovefool”. both of these are thematically tied to the song in some sense.

since some of my intent was to deconstruct candy pop, i started off thinking it’d be fun to take the famous “Lovefool” vocal and discolor its original meaning. it’s the exact kind of cheese i’m writing against.

the idea to use the Outkast sample came about because andre’s verse in that song is, in my mind, also about a platonic relationship. sure, it’s tragic because sasha thumper dies from an overdose, but i think it’s made all the more tragic because he loves her. it’s one of my favorite rap songs of all time too, so throwing the sample in was irresistible.

actually, there is a third sample: the intro from U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. honestly, the snare is just dope, and sometimes you just have to add dope shit to your song. 

the bass line in the verse simply follows and harmonizes with the outkast sample – i just sat down and played around until i found a line i liked. the chorus chords were likewise picked out because they supported the “lovefool” sample, which was actually a little difficult to manage because the vocal has some vocoder/auto-harmonizer effect on it that were picked out for a different chord progression. unlike the verse, i actually had to pick apart what was going on in the sample and sort of logically come up with what chord progression would work. but that’s songwriting: sometimes you can play around without thinking much until something sounds good, and then other times you have to really consider how every compositional element ties in together.

the mandolin in the chorus was a way of heightening the dynamics of the chorus against the verse — sometimes you add just an element or two to make the chorus distinctive. but i also think it’s funny that the only acoustic instrument in this whole song is a mandolin. it basically doesn’t make any sense.


Wearing your roomie’s dress.

Listless, asleep in bed.

My bed.

i wanted to start with an image that typifies the kind of intimacy that the song is after. in the way that she and her friend have the kind of relationship where they feel comfortable sharing clothes, we have the kind of relationship where she feels comfortable sleeping in my bed (sometimes after a party or whatever she would just want to crash, so we’d share the bed). it could very well be sexual, but it isn’t – the energy is even so far as “listless” because something hasn’t been working.

Fuck your better friends.

she used to do this thing where she would try to create a distance between us by telling me that we weren’t even good friends. considering how much time we spent together, it was completely unbelievable and just hurtful. so here i’m just calling her out on that.

Ask how your day has been.

Your glance drops.

she also started to create a distance by ignoring my attempts at small talk. i ask her a commonplace question, and she won’t even look at me. but as a dramatic moment in the song, i know by this gesture that something has been lost forever.

 My care leaks from the loss,

 Coagulating clots.

 The contractions stopped.

after the realization that something has been lost, i feel heartbroken. but i’m describing “heartbreak” in scientific terms (internal bleeding, resulting in blood clotting, resulting in heart failure); being scientific is a way of being dispassionate, a way of creating my own distance. but instead of “blood” leaking from a blood loss (aka bleeding), the metaphor is made by saying “my care” leaks from the loss – that is, the heartbreak occurs because the care i have for her is starting to diminish from the loss of our love. it hurts that i’m being asked not to care.

I won’t even talk

As we trip through the quad;

As you love me or not;

As my younger thoughts

Weigh down.

mostly in this verse, i’m imagining a moment where i ask her how her day has been, but she won’t even respond to that — so i have the realization that our time is coming to an end. by that thought, i want to cherish the time i have left in this complication. regardless if we talk, regardless if you still love me, regardless how sad i’ve been made by my “younger thoughts” (i was younger than her), i just want to walk through the college quad with you (or rather “trip”, since we were falling over each other); i want to savor whatever we have left.

Weighed down,

My affections

Play out.

I won’t have them.

at this repetition, the “weigh down” line becomes a motif — the things that weigh us down the most tend not to have any physical weight at all. i repeat the idea again in the second verse.

otherwise, i’m just basically saying that i’ve let these heavy affections play out to their conclusion, and now it’s time to say goodbye.

Love me, love me.

Say you won’t love me.

Fool me, fool me.

Don’t go and fool me.

this is the lyrical heart of the song. recontextualizing a famously indulgent pop passage to express restraint, and maybe remorse.

What’s the make up for?

I never wanted you


Yeah your party’s great.

It’s great all these people came.

But I’ll leave.

You’ll keep formality;

Laugh appropriately.

As I kiss your cheek

this second verse is an account of the last time i really did say goodbye. she was a shy person, but decided to throw a party and invited me. to my surprise, a lot of people showed up. she was talking to people i didn’t recognize, and when i came over to her, i noticed she was wearing make up, something she never wore in the entire time of my knowing her. it was as if just as things were ending, she was becoming somebody new – and of course, i wanted her all the more.

but when i greeted her, i just kissed her cheek, told her that it was nice that people came to her party, and then she was whisked away by someone for some reason. and that was really the last time i ever spoke to her. i saw her laughing and behaving in a calculated way with these randos, and i felt out of place, so i left.

there was something poetic, and probably apropos, about our last interaction being so mundane.

I relieve it all:

The books stacked in the hall;

Tiny bags; Adderall;

How his empty calls

Weigh down.

but in this bland farewell, i’m giving up all the little details of our friendship that i did love: the hundreds of books she had stacked around her apartment, mostly by authors i’d never heard of, that sometimes i’d pick from and read while she was cooking; the little stamped glassine bags that the dealer we’d call before our Arabic exams would put the adderall in, that she would save because she thought they were cute; the way that when she would take a call from her boyfriend while staying the night at my house, i could tell from her voice that their relationship had problems, that it was penetrable, and for reasons i didn’t explore, i felt tinged with hope.

who knows. maybe i really was in love.




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