With bold, synthy beats and enormous hooks that lift you off the ground, Jack Antonoff is responsible for creating a distinct, summery sound that any young person could recognize.
The New Jersey-born songwriter began his career as the lead singer for the band fun. Yet, in recent years, Antonoff has also partnered to produce music with recent pop supernovas, including Lana del Ray, Kevin Abstract, and Carly Rae Jepsen. Not only does this indie rock darling wear many hats, but he proudly owns his Jewish identity. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he can be seen sporting a large Star of David pendant on his chest, and a pin from Jewish summer camp sits on the desk of his home studio.
For many of us in Generation Z, Antonoff’s music occupies a special place in our adolescent memories. We may have sobbed in the back seat of a car to a slow-tempo Lorde song that he produced; maybe we first found self-confidence splashing around at a pool party to Sara Bareilles’s “Brave.” More, for many LGBTQ+ young people, we associate Antonoff’s upbeat style with a kind of cotton candy flavored freedom. While he’s not queer himself, Bleachers, Antonoff’s stage persona, produced the soundtrack of 2018’s Love, Simon, the first major studio romantic comedy with a gay male protagonist.
Jack Antonoff’s oeuvre also provides the perfect soundtrack to a young person’s period of self-isolation. In the past few months, I’ve found myself repeatedly revisiting music that he’s produced or created. Suddenly, I am transported back to laughing with my friends at a frenetic pre-game, or hitting the highway on some bygone summer road trip. With bittersweet lyrics and melodies that tinker with traditional pop chord progressions, his music articulates the highs and lows of a young person’s life before COVID-19. Here are some highlights from the Antonoff canon for your physical distancing pleasure.
“Goodmorning” by Bleachers
… for some early morning optimism.
In a “Making Of” video on the band’s official YouTube page, Antonoff describes trying to replicate that hazy moment at the cusp of waking up, “where you are present, but you don’t have the weight of your life on you.” With descending piano and a slow, steady bass track, the song is the musical equivalent of an indulgent yawn.
“Goodmorning” is the perfect tune to set as an alarm on your phone for a weekday in isolation. It allows you to see the world in a major key, but it reminds you that self-isolation is an activity that you must do at your own pace. Social media may pressure you to use your period of self-isolation productively, but “Goodmorning” allows you to see the beginning of your day as slow and enjoyable, not a panicked frenzy to get things done.
“I Wanna Get Better” by Bleachers
… for those spurts of productivity.
Of course, sometimes you do want to get things done, and you do enter those moments of pure, intense productivity. Maybe you’re tired of scrolling through Instagram and watching another TikTok will interfere with your ability to obtain a good night’s sleep. In this case, Bleachers’s mantra of self-improvement and optimism is the perfect tune to propel you into momentum.
The rapid, staccato piano chords provide the perfect background music to achieving all of your quarantine goals. On the treadmill to burn off last Shabbat dinner’s challah? “I Want To Get Better.” Cleaning out your room, then trying not to gag when you find a crumb from last month’s kugel on your bed sheets? Good thing you’re already on the path to self-improvement. Your bursts of productivity may only last the duration of a four-minute pop song, but hey, at least you can experience the overachiever lifestyle for a bit!
“Want You in My Room” by Carly Rae Jepsen
… for some physically distanced romance.
Okay, let’s get real here. You are young. You have needs. Physical distancing measures have made conventional Gen Z romance a relic from a distant era. You can’t go to the movies with a partner or venture out to some five-star restaurant, nor can you glide up to a cute stranger in a night club and dance the night away. You’re going to have to get creative with your courtship methods.
So, while you can’t go out on the town, you can try out some of the new Jewish dating groups that have emerged on Facebook, or update your Hinge to prepare for some video dates. Carly Rae’s flirty, unapologetically weird hit is the perfect accoutrement for your new online dating adventures. After two hours on Tinder, just try not to cave and FaceTime your ex.
“Writer in the Dark” by Lorde
… for when your ex doesn’t pick up.
“Whatever,” you say to yourself, holding back tears. “They were a jerk anyways.”
“Norman fucking Rockwell” by Lana Del Ray
… for when the indoor angst gets to your head.
You may have been enjoying independence in a college dorm room only to find yourself living back with your parents. Or, maybe you live alone and you have recently resumed journaling as a way to channel your inner frustration. All these distancing measures transport you back to a time when life was governed by a bunch of rules, your hair was a mess, and no one could possibly understand how you felt. It only adds up that your music taste hearkens back to eighth grade, too.
Lana del Ray’s “Norman fucking Rockwell” encapsulates this ennui perfectly. Scaled back, del Ray sings about heartbreak and disillusionment, spell-binding piano and saxophone purring in the background. Listen to this Antonoff-del Ray partnership while venting about your boredom on Twitter.
“Out of the Woods” by Taylor Swift
… for checking the news.
One of Jack Antonoff’s most successful partnerships has been with pop icon Taylor Swift. The two collaborated to produce a song for a movie soundtrack in 2013, and then they partnered again the next year for Swift’s album 1989. Swift’s “Out of the Woods” is the perfect anthem for anxiously scrolling through updates on the New York Times, wondering when this dreadful lockdown will end.
While listening to “Out of the Woods,” you can count your blessings (including the fact that you have wifi), and then hang a hand-drawn rainbow on your window to honor the frontline workers risking their lives each day for your safety. You remember that life could be worse. Maybe instead of whining on Twitter, you will use this time to reflect and express gratitude.
Or, more likely…
“Liability” by Lorde
… for when you inevitably text your ex again.
They didn’t respond this time, either. You cry, then you stress-eat an entire loaf of the sourdough bread that you made last afternoon.
Header image of Jack Antonoff by Jim Bennett/WireImage.