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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

"Find U Again" is a masterpiece of unwanted loneliness

Mark Ronson and Camila Cabello combine for an anthem of post-heartbreak grief and processing.


Sometimes a musical production just sticks with me.


I'd say it's one of the blessings of my musical memory, though it can cross over onto the 'curse' side of things when a song just can't get out of my head. Thankfully, between this blog, my classes, and the variety of music I know and listen to, it's rare for something to stay in the front of my mind for more than a couple days.


Rather, those pieces I know — and often unconsciously memorize — all take up a shared musical space in the back of my head. Frequently, one of those tracks manages to escape and get to the front, at which point I hear at least a section of it playing in my mind. It's as close to an 'earworm' as I think I can get.


That's exactly what happened tonight as I got toward a stopping point in working on my midterm essay. All of a sudden, my mind turned from Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? to Mark Ronson's "Find U Again," featuring Camila Cabello. I could make no sense of why it happened: it just did, but that's standard fare for me at this point. I'm grateful I got a darn good song as an earworm, though, because I realized I could talk about quite a few things about the track that stand out to me.

I remember the scene around me when I heard "Find U Again" for the first time. I was back at home on the Peninsula, in my bedroom. I was a couple weeks removed from my freshman year at Cal, and I was having a down night, missing all sorts of people. My friends from Cal had returned to their homes for the summer, but most of my friends from home hadn't come back yet (the quarter system sucks). I was in this in-between space, and even in my own home, I felt... somewhat alone. I felt lost and a bit broken, not knowing where to turn in my early-morning despondency. In hearing "Find U Again" while I browsed new releases, I found a song that helped me channel some of my emotions — which, yes, included a bit of romantic longing for someone I feel I could never reach for [reasons redacted in order to not say too much about either myself or the other person].


...Don't worry, I don't think the person has ever found out how I felt/feel about them. Alright, moving on!

"Find U Again," along with the rest of Mark Ronson's album Late Night Feelings, captures loneliness as part of heartbreak coming from the female perspective of a love's end. It almost feels like the song captures a single moment in time, slowing down everything to capture Camila Cabello's narrator's emotions in one vulnerable scene, as she sings a powerful melody brought to Mark Ronson by Kevin Parker, the man behind Tame Impala. From the pauses at the start of each line in the verses, it’s clear that the narrator is struggling to work through what she’s feeling. While Cabello begins to bemoan the breakup in the opening chorus, she uses the first to describe the start of a denial phase following the split: "Baby, baby, I / Walk in the late night / Looking for your eyes / Put up a fight to find you." In ending the verse with "All of the blame's mine," she provides a direct link to the second verse's pleas for forgiveness: "Have mercy on me, please / I messed up to the third degree." In between, a pre-chorus sees the narrator reminding the lover of what they once had. The pauses are shorter in the second verse than in the first, which might sometimes indicate coming to terms with the matter, but here, combined with the lyrics, I hear it as greater desperation rather than any sort of closure.


All the while, Mark Ronson's production alternates between comforting warmth and icy cold moments. The synth bass exhibits the former quality, powerfully (but not overly so) grounding the track in its constant two-bar progression. The chord tones above the bass, however, contribute to some of the coldness, especially in the second of the two measures in the loop; they feel somewhat distant with the space between them and the bass, and their slight detuning detaches them a bit further. Similarly, the claves and cowbell in the drumbeat feel distant and icy in their high pitch and reverb-heavy sound, while the rest of the beat complements the bass and feels warmer. Bridging the gap between the lower, warm elements and the higher, cold ones is the guitar, which shines during a counter-line in the pre-chorus. Despite the desperation and increasing distance the pre-chorus vocals provide, the guitar's mellowness glues elements together with a slight soothing warmth.


What really throws a wrench in everything I just described is the vocoder applied to Cabello's vocals. Her voice naturally "cuts through" instrumentals in its clarity and focus — a quality Ronson praised upon the track's release — but the vocoder mellows out that effect and melds things together in most cases. To my eyes, that tends to warm things up a good amount in most cases, despite the vocoder removing Cabello's voice from its natural state. The outlier from that "most cases" distinction is the second verse, the coldest moment of the entire track. Cabello takes lyrics she wrote as a teen, speaks them on one take, and sings on the other, while the vocoder does its work in the background. It adds up to a section that sounds downright depressing as the narrator combines pleas to win back their love with admissions of their own faults. It all gives me chills, which could technically come from being impressed by the section (which I am)... but the kind of chill I get suggests a cold gust of wind coming from an open window, rather than a chill from purely being enraptured by the music.


In creating a production that vacillates between warmth and coldness, Mark Ronson made "Find U Again" a standout pop track that emotionally follows Camila Cabello's vocals, never feeling completely settled. At the same time, its powerful instrumental elements give it an undeniable groove which make it hard not to stay still despite the message of heartbreak. Maybe dancing through our problems could help us get over them... but does that work in the long term as well as in the immediate aftermath of a sad event? I guess we'll have to wait and see, because it seems we're not meant to know the answer right away.

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