The first line of Jehnny Beth’s new song “Flower” finds her whispering, “The flower field with murder,” and after that you can’t help but be curious about where this is all going. As the former frontwoman for Savages, Beth has always been prone to big, showy drama and, if “Flower” is any indication, her upcoming solo LP, To Love Is to Live, will be a dusky, expressionistic affair — the kind, like with “Flower,” that begs you to keep listening. And if it’s like “Flower,” it’ll be worth it.
The song is supposedly about a stripper who dances at the L.A. “bikini bar” called Jumbo’s Clown Room, not that that has anything to do with a flower field of murder. It begins with a dub explosion before settling into an easy groove, with light trap-beat accents — you’d think it was strip-club music if it weren’t for a gently strummed guitar and Beth singing, “She’s not easy to love.” The thing that pushes it over the top, though, is the Big Chorus: “She loves me and I love her/I’m not sure how to please her…I’m not sure how to reach her, how to touch her.” Beth has always been capable of affecting a Patti Smith–like curl to her voice, and the way she does it on the chorus draws you before she starts whispering again, “How come we can’t get closer?”
When the song ends, you still have questions. Will the woman Beth is singing about ever show her true self? Is getting closer the objective or is something bigger at play here? What’s with the murder stuff? But given the subject matter, you’re supposed to want to know more.
Beth, who is bisexual, recently told The New York Times that when she wrote “Flower,” it was simply to write a love song for a woman. “To me, women were in the distance, so it’s been liberating to write about them,” she said. She also told the paper that the way David Bowie made Blackstar — knowing it would be his final statement as an artist before his death — influenced her to make a record that she felt matters. “Flower” fits the bill.
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