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The New TV Girl Album Sucked, But The Tour Didn't, by Rachel Watkins

So, you read the title. I am not a fan of TV Girl's latest album, Grapes Upon the Vine. It was a big letdown that left me regretting my concert ticket purchase. For context, I had spontaneously purchased tickets before the album’s release.


I still went to the concert, reassuring myself that the band would play songs from its old discography. However, I was left shocked when the band included only three songs from its new album in the setlist. This concert made me realize that I was not an outlier. Grapes Upon the Vine had not been a fan favorite.


Throughout the concert, Brad Petering, the writer and lead singer of TV Girl, made jokes about the new album's terrible performance on streaming platforms. But before Petering said anything about the album's poor performance, I knew the album had missed the mark universally based on the nature of the crowd.


During the performance of the three songs off of the new album, fans didn't sway or sing along. The audience stood dead still and dead silent, which made me feel a bit bad for the band.


The performance of the album made me ponder. I asked myself: Why did the album flop within the fandom?


When analyzing and reflecting on TV Girl’s earlier albums, the reason becomes pretty clear. Grapes Upon the Vine is a happy album. It’s not filled with melancholy beats reminiscent of a rainy day, nor is it composed of outright cynical lyrics on relationships. The new album also neglects the old-timey feel from including samples that TV Girl is known for.


Instead, the album incorporates gospel background singers, which gives it an uplifting sound. And the lyrics — while still a bit cynical — are more poetic, with more of a focus on religion rather than relationships. While they still utilize samples, they stray away from TV Girl’s trademark funky pop sound.


Regarding lyrics, comparing “Song About Me” from Who Really Cares to “I’ll Be Faithful” from Grapes Upon the Vine serves as one example of the stark contrast between the band’s old sound and its new sound.


“Song About Me” emphasizes the band's raw honesty about relationships, with lyrics like “I was bad-mouthing your name / In some shitty bar somewhere” and “So, you got your feels hurt and now you're feeling depressed /Just because we had sex and it didn’t last?”


Now, compare that to the lyrics: “And you could spit right in my drink / And I'd be grateful” and “Doesn’t matter what you do /I’ll be faithful” on “I’ll Be Faithful.” Yeah, it's a big difference, and it comes across as a bit jarring after familiarizing yourself with the band's earlier work.


Besides the difference in lyrics, as I mentioned earlier, the sound produced a new listening experience. Instead of the instrumentals complimenting the lyrics, they feel like they are their own component. This results in the songs on the album sounding incohesive. Fans were expecting TV Girl's catchy, complimentary lyric-beat rhythm. They were expecting songs that were easy to sing along to. But that's not this album.

To emphasize this mismatch effect on the new album, I recommend listeners compare the song “Heaven Over our Heads” from Grapes Upon the Vine to “Blue Hair” from Death of a Party Girl. Unlike “Blue Hair,” the instrumentals and background singers on “Heaven Over our Heads” interrupt the lyrics. The end result creates this battle between the beat and lyrics, making the song impossible to sing along to.


When comparing it to “Blue Hair,” the beat avoids interrupting the lyrics. Through these alternations between the lyrics and the beat, the song achieves a balance, allowing both components to shine. The result of this balance has led to the song's distinguishable sound, which has made it a fan favorite.


Also, overall, the sound on the new album is set to a slower tempo, which disappointed fans. The music on the new album promotes mellow relaxation. It's not the typical energetic dance music TV Girl produces.


I commend TV Girl for being experimental and trying something new with its sound, but band members forgot about what made fans gravitate toward its music in the first place. Listeners of TV Girl became followers because they resonated with the band's jaded attitude; they didn't start following to have a spiritual awakening.


The new album not only failed because it rejected TV Girl’s trademark sound, but it also failed because it was unrelatable to its audience.


I’ve been a harsh critic so far, so I can not stress this enough: As a fan, the TV Girl concert was exactly what I wanted.


Photo by Rachel Watkins, TV Girl at KEMBA! Live

The band ended up playing most of their old discography, which left me feeling nostalgic. During the concert, I reflected on where I was when I discovered the band, causing me to get emotional.


The set was simple and beautiful. Various neon colors shone down on the band. And most importantly, the crowd was lively and engaged, which significantly added to my concert experience.


I got to go to this concert with one of my friends. We bonded over not only our love for the band’s music but also our absolute determination to make it to this concert.


On our way to the concert, his car battery died twice, which made arriving at the concert feel like a grand victory.


So yeah, although the band missed the mark on this last album and left me initially feeling a bit regretful about buying a ticket, it didn’t stop me from attending the concert.


Ultimately, I couldn’t have been happier with my experience or purchase.

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