“Cold emailing a stranger to listen to an upbeat song I wrote about my depression is whack. But I keep writing witty hooks on sticky beats about mental health, so here we are”, read the two first sentences in an email that landed recently in my inbox.
And that unpretentious, honest approach was already enough to spark my interest.
But then I pressed “play” on the song itself. And I instantly knew I’d have to introduce you to the artist who committed that email and convince you to listen to her catchy new single right away.
PART 120 OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE
Everyone – meet Vigilantonie.
She is an independent Melbourne-based queer artist I’d never heard of before, but whose attitude I’m loving already. So there’ll be a few quotes from her here and there – that way you’ll know straight away what I mean.
Vigilantonie makes electropop music. She might be a newcomer to this business, but, judging by her adventures in the Aussie Music “La-la Land” so far, she definitely has the potential to carve out her own unique space in it. And soon.
For starters, she already knows how to turn industry heads.
“Cooked” is the muso’s third single that dropped on September 16th. It was produced by Barnaby Matthews with whom the singer collaborated on her previous releases.
And that’s a fact you might want to keep in mind. Because their debut track, “Cool”, was a top 40 finalist in the APRA AMCOS Vanda & Young Global Songwriting Competition, the most prestigious and lucrative in Australia, and one of the most recognisable in the world.
So, before even releasing “Cooked”, Vigilantonie set the bar really high for her future releases.
But that’s not all. The muso has also scored funding from the Creative Victoria Music Grants to write her debut album, “which explores what it is to be self-made”. If that’s not putting your foot in the door, I don’t know what else is.
Good. Then here are six other reasons why Vigilantonie and “Cooked” deserve your immediate attention.
1. THE SONG
Clear vocals and an energetic beat open up this tune that will make you instantly tap your feet to the rhythm. Be careful, though, it’s infectious from the start.
In the beginning, it’s actually just a simple, pretty melody sung to the beat. But as the song evolves, more vocal harmonies, instruments and effects are added.
Then, there’s a fairly mellow and dreamy bridge, where she went for “full Lana Del Rey strings“. And suddenly, you get a “Paramore-inspired”, desperate rebel yell, “a nod to the angstier years of my depression”, according to the singer.
Talking about a cathartic experience in art, right?
But the song doesn’t leave you with a bitter taste. Instead, it finishes on that catchy beat, interwoven throughout the song. I guess it’s a sign that yes, “the world is f**ked”, but hey, on the other hand, life goes on. So we might as well embrace it.
To make the long story short, “Cooked” is an unexpected banger with a universal theme, which is close to that sweet radio-friendly 3-minute mark. Despite the depresso lyrics, it’s a quick pick-me-up, a perfect mood booster you will be thankful for when feeling utterly shite and useless, but feisty at the same time.
You’ll just be sorry it’s over so fast.
And before moving on, let’s clarify any doubts. Despite the uptempo vibe, “Cooked” is a sad song about depression. And that contrast on the sonic and lyrical levels is what makes it interesting for me as well.
2. THE TOPIC
Mental health is probably not your go-to topic for a catchy pop anthem. Nor is it a frequent or particularly welcome theme in music in general.
Maybe it’s because it’s never easy to open up about your personal struggles. Or maybe it’s because we still don’t talk about this stuff enough in the music biz, or elsewhere, for that matter.
It’s high time we changed that. Because it can get pretty lonely in the creative world as well. Especially because artists have a different kind of sensibility to the world around us.
So I truly appreciate Vigilantonie’s desire to destigmatize the conversation. Even if that means landing in the unpopular box at first.
Another pretty cool aspect of the single is tackling the topic indirectly, describing depressive feelings as food experiences. The main chorus line itself is an ingenious way to describe that challenging state of mind, through the metaphorical meaning of the phrase “everything is cooked”.
But you’ll get more delicious references reflecting some not-so-yummy emotions. Like in the first verses of the song:
Like warm apple pie, the first I baked
Like strawberry and lemon cheesecake
Like those eggs I made you when
You told me we would just be friends
Like every frozen meal I made
When I was healing from all the love you gave
Like just a tiny slice of pie
Because the bigger picture got me asking why
Those are very familiar feelings that everyone can relate to. Don’t you think?
3. THE PITCH
“I don’t have a publicist or a label, just a sense of humour and an email address, which I’m hoping is enough for now”, says Vigilantonie about her efforts to hustle a PR campaign.
It’s certainly an unconventional way, full of dark humour and the self-conscious “know your place in the biz” type of approach. I bow my head to it any day.
What I also loved about Vigilantonie’s pitch were her clearly-stated goals: “I wanna reach more people, get that sweet blue tick on socials and start getting more opportunities to do what I love (singing about my feelings to hotties).”
No bulls**t, just plain honesty. So if I can help the artist make that happen in any way, I’m here for it.
Funnily, even the emojis she used to get the message across in the email were on point. Yes, there were heaps of hearts and stars, but also 💅, flawlessly matching her image.
And when it comes to the press release, it’s the part that truly got me. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you’ll know there’s nothing I dig more than showing your personality.
So I couldn’t stop laughing when I read this bit: “I know how much y’all froth a press release, so I’ve attached one. I didn’t write it in third person because who are we kidding, it’s just me”.
But then, surprisingly, she got super real and serious. And that’s also when I was sold on the story.
4. THE STORY
Firstly, you should know that “Cooked” is a fairly fresh song, in the context of the mental state the singer is trying to convey.
It was written at the start of 2022. But it’s a combined reaction to many events that happened before it. From the harsh lockdowns, in Melbourne in particular, to the wild bushfires and crazy floods in Australia, or the scary numbers of COVID cases in the country at one point. Sounds familiar, right?
So I’m going to have to quote a part of Vigilantonie’s press release here, too, so you can grasp her headspace at the time of writing “Cooked”:
“All the hope that ~things will be different this year~ was immediately gone. (…) So I did what my perpetually broke hippie mother taught me to do when I need to calm down, be alone and not spend money and went to the beach. Usually, that helps to quell ~the dread~, but it didn’t. The beach was really polluted, it was cold in the middle of summer because of another global warming La Niña, and I still got horribly sunburnt. I was also just about to turn 27 which is an age I’ve always feared because of the way stars seem to die at that age. I’m not a star yet but I do have depression and make pop music while the world is burning, so all things considered I think… fair”.
Again, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Vigilantonie is talking about my life to a certain extent.
Thankfully, she channelled those sad emotions in the best way she possibly could. She started singing, and the lyrics and melody just appeared naturally.
Then, she sent it to her friend and producer, the previously mentioned Barnaby Matthews, and he whipped up the catchy beat.
And the rest is history.
5. THE IMAGE
I’m not here to judge anybody’s appearance. But the image constitutes a great part of “the whole package” in the music biz these days. So if it doesn’t correspond with the genre or vibe the artist is going for, the whole brand-building thing can quickly go down the drain, brutally speaking.
In the case of Vigilantonie, there’s nothing to worry about. She nailed it, in my humble view. Her newly-gained confidence and self-motivation are definitely embodied in the visual image she projects to the world. And not that her musicianship requires any validation. But having a clearly defined idea for a persona you want to be on stage certainly doesn’t hurt.
And I reckon I know how she achieved that. But I’ll let the artist speak on that herself as well:
“An electropop hippie-cowgirl singer-songwriter raised just below the poverty line in a small town in rural Australia, I make big pu$$y pop music that aims to lighten heavy hearts. Before making some of the best pop music you’ve never heard, I was a comedian studying a philosophy degree, but that’s been placed on hold while I write my dance-pop debut album. I’ve a big, bold creative vision that’s almost as thicc as my thighs and the confidence to boot (scoot) (baby).”
See now where that “not taking myself too seriously, but still being professional and hard-working about it” attitude comes from?
Moreover, Vigilantonie’s objective is to cast a wide net in the world and make up for the music she was lacking when growing up. She wants to connect with “the poor girl, the queer girl, the weird (undiagnosed mental illness) girl, the fat girl, the quiet girl with a big brain but no voice, and the kind girl with no thoughts, but the biggest heart. I’ve been all of these girls at different times (…)”.
In our tricky, calculated world, it might be a challenging task to bring all those fan groups together under one roof. But, at least, I admire her ideals.
6. THE TIMING
Just a heads-up that this last point is rather subjective and personal, much more than the previous ones. So take it with a grain of salt, please.
Like Vigilantonie, I also happen to think that, currently, “everything is cooked”. And I have the overwhelming impression the two of us are not the only ones.
The so-called “unprecedented times” we live in have become a sort of cliché. We all feel it to a certain extent, but are scared or ashamed to express it. Mostly because of the artificial culture of “toxic positivity” that tells us to shove all the unpleasant emotions under the carpet, forcing us to fake a smile every day when facing the world. Soz, but it doesn’t work like that.
So Vigilantonie’s song couldn’t come at a better time. Quoting the artist again, “Together, we might not be able to save the world, but we can be present with our feelings while it crumbles around us”. I’ll shout you a bevvy if you can find me a more suitable quote right now.
That’s it. I got no more arguments. So it’s over to you now, readers. Go listen to the single right now.
And if you’ve ever wondered how to encourage me to listen to your music, remember that I like to be impressed by the pitch first.
So feel free to treat this post as your ultimate guide on how to perfect it, courtesy of Vigilantonie and her catchy depresso pop anthem, “Cooked”.
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