If there's been one song that's been the earworm of the All Songs Considered office, it'd have to be The Magnetic Fields' new single "Andrew in Drag." Ever since we first played the song on the show we've been humming bars, singing stanzas and practicing their Stephin Merritt impression. It's no mystery why the song has such sticking power — Merritt's songwriting ability makes crafting extremely catchy songs seem easy.
Be advised, this video contains nudity.
"[The song's] about a straight guy who falls madly in love with the drag persona of his straight friend Andrew," Merritt wrote in an email. It's a concept that could seem hackneyed in another musician's hands, but Merritt's clever writing draws out the absurdity and wit of the situation. In his trademark deadpan he constantly finds every single word ending with "ag" that he could possibly use. The instrumentals could perfectly fit in the band's classic 69 Love Songs album with a bouncing bass line and glossy synths. In a mere two minutes the song packs in a gigantic amount of charm and style.
Director Scott Valins created what feels like an infomercial on a channel you can't comprehend. Faceless models slip on and off clothes in front of a clean, white background. Magnetic Fields members Merrit and Claudia Gonson rotate expressionlessly. The two stars of the video, Darrell Thorne and the fantastically-named Stormy Leather, are seen in various points of drag transformation. Their physical image is quickly shifting, make-up is applied and smeared, mustaches are glued on, a lot of tape is used. As the models finally wipe away their hard work a blank nametag is flashed on the screen, reminding us that identity is complex and beyond conventional labeling.
Valins described for us the process behind creating the video's concept:
Stephin came to Valins&Co with this extraordinary song and together we explored the concept of playing with the ambiguities of gender and attraction. We took the opportunity to create a vibrant collage, exploring the intimate process of transforming ones gender. The backbone of the piece is a series of intimate portraits that lead the viewer to their own complex conclusions of what they are attracted to.
Love at the Bottom of the Sea will be out on March 6th from Merge Records.