You’ve suspected it for awhile. Since he stopped calling. Since the every night late night text became the weekend late night text, became sporadic late night text, became the non-existent late night text. You’ve suspected it for awhile, yet you refused to indulge the thoughts. You’ve suspected it. But now you know it’s true. He’s found someone new.
Are they dating? Exclusive? Just friends? Have they kissed? Have they… You can’t turn your brain off. Not ever since Stacy told you she saw them together at Roger’s party. Roger’s. Where you met him. That pit in your stomach grows with every horrible thought ping ponging around your head about the two of them together. Does he hold her like he held you? Make her feel every bit as special as he made you feel? Why? Why does she deserve that? Does she love him? Can she love him better than you can? Is that even possible?
You have a pretty good idea where he’s going to be tonight. It’s Saturday. Everyone and their mother will be at Sanchez’s. That place has been the go to spot ever since DJ Steppo started his residency there last month. “I bet she’ll be with him,” you tell yourself. Of course she will. If you were in her shoes, you would be. You were, not so long ago. You should go. To see it for yourself. Just one drink. One drink, confirm all of your nightmares are reality and then you’ll leave. One drink.
The minute you walk through the door, a perfect storm of sadness, regret and fear come cascading over you like like a waterfall made up of the bad idea it was to come here tonight. As much as you lied to yourself that “maybe they won’t be here” as the bouncer scanned your ID, that false promise of a reprieve is immediately destroyed by the site of the two of them at the bar. He notices you and smiles. You smile back as if to prove that you are cool with this. So cool with this. Cool with them. Cool with it all. Cool. Everything is cool. You’re cool. The coolest.
You notice that she has gotten up to go to the bathroom, and after a second or two (so as to not appear like you were waiting for your moment to strike, of course), you approach the bar and use the empty spot next to him to order your drink from the bartender. “She’s sooo pretty,” you say, unable to swallow any of the bitterness and contempt overwhelming your core in this moment. “You guys look really cute together.” As those words leave your lips, you feel every ounce of dignity vacate your body, leaving behind a sad shell unable to navigate how to process this uncomfortable situation you’ve created for yourself. “Thanks. Sorry I didn’t text you back the other night. Work’s been crazy,” he says. What the entire fuck ever. Work!? He’s giving you the “work” excuse!? Your heart wants to go full rage emoji, but you play it off, silly face emoji. “Why are you saying sorry, you goof? It’s cool.” As you try to continue to play it off, she returns. “Hey, do you know Courtney? Courtney, this is Liv.” Of course she’s a Courtney. Courtney, with her mousey brunette hair and that shirt from Forever 21 that’s so last season that it clearly came off the clearance rack, Courtney. Gag emoji. “Hey Court! Great to meet you! Well, I’m gonna get a drink and get back out on the dance floor. I’ll see you crazy kids around.”
You want to vomit. You want to cry. You want to cry and vomit simultaneously. Maybe even cry tears of vomit. But you will not give that man the satisfaction of seeing you hurt. So, you drink your one drink. And another. And one more. And then some guy you used to work with buys you a shot and of course you’re going to drink that too because you are a fun girl and look what he’s missing out on with his mousey brunette!
And then you find yourself alone on the dance floor in a break between songs when you see it. Them. Kissing. And it feels like a thousand papercuts eviscerating your heart. The only way you stop yourself from crying is by laughing. Uncontrollably. The beat picks back up and you will not show one moment of weakness, so you start to dance. Slowly at first, but the more and more you think about the two of them kissing at the bar, the more and more you think about how you thought the two of you had something special, the more and more you begin to put your all into it. All of a sudden, it is you and the music. The bass drum working like a puppeteer, controlling your every move, spinning you in circles, around and around. The rhythm is the only thing holding you together, every near tear transformed into a move of defiance, every scream you wish to cry out turned into brute confidence, and you find yourself in a near tribal trance, dancing away the pain. Dancing. On your own.
To say I have been afraid of sitting down to start this article is an understatement. The narrative you have just read above flowed easily from my fingers over three months ago. But this part? This part I have been reluctant to write. Why? The cause of that fear is not just because this is the first piece of music criticism (and I use that term loosely) that I am presenting here on Yo! That’s My Jawn, but more importantly… “Dancing on My Own” is the song that seeded the idea of this very website in my brain. Listening to Robyn’s brilliant four minutes and forty-six seconds of pure pop lament left me with not just an empathetic feeling of sadness, but a feeling that I needed to figure out just what is was that made me play it on repeat on my thirty minute car ride home. I wanted, nay needed to know and I wanted to share my findings with anyone who would listen to me foolishly blabber on about it (*waves*). But how would I do that? How could I? Then… the thought…
“I should build a website dedicated to music I’m obsessed with.”
And now, here we are.
So, yeah. “Dancing on My Own” sat there atop the long* list of songs and albums and topics I have been compiling since that very thought of this site entered my mind (* – It’s an insanely long list. Dear reader, I do not believe I will be running out of content ideas for a very long time). And as I sat down to finally write this, I was struck with an uncanny sense of dread. What if this piece doesn’t give Robyn the respect she deserves for writing what I believe to be, with complete honesty and zero hyperbole, the greatest single piece of pop art to be released this millennium?
What is it about Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” that hit me on such a visceral level? That day that this obsession was born, there was a moment where I found myself in my car at a stop light, belting out “I’m in the corner, watching you kiss her…” at the top of my lungs in a near tear as if I were truly standing there on the dance floor watching the person I love kiss someone else. Something about the tone in Robyn’s voice throughout the chorus (specifically in the sustained “ohohohs”) generates a feeling of sorrow in me that I find to be sadder than any song by Elliott Smith (“…he says, as an enormous fan of the late great Mr. Smith“).
To me, it is the musical equivalent of the scene in Cameron Crowe’s criminally underrated “cover” of ABRE LOS OJOS, VANILLA SKY, when Julie Gianni (played by Cameron Diaz) shows up uninvited to the birthday party of David Ames (played here by Tom Cruise, who is in this film doing *peak* Cruise) and watches as he bestows the attention she desires on Sophia (Penelope Cruz, reprising the role she portrayed in Alejandro Amenábar’s original). Sophia’s description of Julie’s gaze is that she appears to be “the saddest girl to ever hold a martini.” That marvelously described look on her face is to me, in one frame, the perfect embodiment of this song. That small moment where the game face you have perfected all evening fails long enough to allow the Rebels to make the trench run, fire off a shot into the exhaust port of your heart, and destroy the Death Star that has protected you all evening, and you stand there exposed and unprotected, like a pure raw nerve.
The moment in the song that best signifies this comes in the bridge, where Robyn lets go the facade and with absolute vulnerability attempts to find her former lover “to say goodbye.” Both the music and her confidence stripped away, and the only thing left remaining, illuminated by the sobering end of the night return of the house lights, is the sad, broken girl, standing there resigned to defeat. But fate still has one final kill shot loaded in its barrel for our already devastated narrator. That final rub? He doesn’t see her, standing there in her unshielded surrender, white flag in hand. It’s here, and for the remainder of the song, that the music swells and those lines that once sounded like powerful demands for attention now better resemble the horns of Jericho, bellowing an explosive cry of depression and rejection, tearing down the walls she built, no longer able to play the role of someone who is okay with any of this. It’s Julie Gianni driving the car off of the bridge (see what I did there?) with David Ames sitting co-pilot. Everything, devoted to destruction.