For some readers, it may seem unbelievable that indie-rock twins Tegan and Sara have been plying their craft since the days of “…Baby One More Time” and “Genie In A Bottle.” However, fans of Tegan and Sara have known all along that the sister duo has been forging an alternate path for decades, one drenched in a different kind of pop, one jagged by rock’s dangerous spirit. The start of this path, and in some ways the end of it, is addressed in the duo’s latest record Hey, I’m Just Like You; the album transforms the way you look at the pop stars of yesterday and today with a message from the past.
To understand the connection between Hey, I’m Just Like You and music’s former trends, one needs to closely examine the lyrics that were written by the sisters decades ago. The brand new record is comprised of songs that were penned by the sisters during their teenage years which, at the age of 39 today, would put them somewhere between the echoes of grunge and the allurement of late ‘90s pop starlets. In this bizarre place in history is where the sisters chose to incubate Hey, I’m Just Like You and now as it sees the light of day it provides a jarring look at what was and could have been.
The opening track “Hold My Breath Until I Die” is colored vibrantly by flourishing electric guitars, a deep bass, and an atmosphere that if visible would surely be fluorescent. The lyrics are dark in the choruses as they reverberate “Oh if I hold my breath until I die, I’ll be alright.” Now, imagine these desperate calls for help coming from a teenage girl, laid onto a bed of sophisticated pop music, in the late ‘90s: unthinkable and unmarketable. The title track comes in quickly as its sympathetic and unifying message pierces the heart “Hey, I’m just like you, a little messed up and blue/ hey I’m just like you, not sure what the fuck I’m gonna do.” Yeah, can you imagine that track playing on the radio after Britney’s “Sometimes” during the ’90s hot singles? We didn’t think so.
In terms of the music, the record is luxurious: tracks like “Hello, I’m Right Here” display gorgeous arpeggiating piano sequences that bubble up among string-instrument swells. Other songs, like “I Know I’m Not the Only One,” are much edgier with tempos that race with confidence, electric guitars intricately picked, and pop vocals that burst with emotion. Tegan and Sara not only play with elements of ‘80s synth-pop music but also of early ‘10s indie rock, and of course late ‘90s mainstream tunes. In the album’s final track “All I Have to Give the World is Me” the melancholy and the uplifting message, immersed in pop-rock, could easily be a Taylor Swift song after she’s had several more heartbreaks.
The merging of past and present is precisely what makes Hey, I’m Just Like You so compelling. Tegan and Sara Quin show us how far women have come in music and beyond, slowly but surely breaking the fragility cliché bestowed upon them by society. Hey, I’m Just Like You‘s liberty could not have existed 25 years ago, but it exists today to reveal something beyond the intended, something beautiful that we need to always hold on to.