Following on the heels of an exhausting, two-years-and-counting pandemic, the pop music landscape of the day is dominated by soft-spoken harmonies and acoustic backings, the kinds of things that lend themselves naturally to rumination on days gone by — Taylor Swift’s “Red (Taylor’s Version)” and Kacey Musgraves’ “star-crossed” come to mind. There’s a nostalgia inherent to these albums, as if they’re looking back on a time that was, for lack of a more encompassing word, different.
In light of all this, that “Best Day of My Life,” a new single from singer-songwriter Sam Spector ’24, focuses on Spector looking back on her own experiences isn’t radical or entirely new. And yet the evocative, memorable fervor of Spector’s lyrics in tandem with her musical command and virtuosity make “Best Day of My Life” a breath of fresh air, at once a nod to emo and pop-punk musical influences over the course of the past decade and a stunningly new direction for Spector’s work.
Strikingly, “Best Day of My Life” juxtaposes its upbeat, driving musical progression with incisively dark lyricism. “After they suck you dry,” Spector asks the listener, “what’s left except a broken nose and heart?” A combination of Spector’s distinctive voice — cycling between growling, sultry lows and polished, round highs — and a relentless guitar and percussion backing lends these lyrics an urgency and drive that force listeners to the edge of their seats.
Indeed, a closer listen shows that Spector is talking not only about herself but also about those around her — about the pain of ripping yourself away from destructive situations and behaviors, even when you know it’s for the best. As Spector illustrates, it’s not an easy feat. Just seconds after entreating the listener to “stay, just a little longer,” Spector claims that she’s “not home,” emphasizing her struggle with removing herself from an unhealthy situation.
When I discussed “Best Day of My Life” with Spector, the confusion and anger that come to mind throughout this song took on a distinctively personal meaning. “I wrote it,” Spector said, “when I was really angry at the society in which we live for encouraging behaviors indicative of self harm — that could be disordered eating habits [or] the use of substances as a coping mechanism.”
Spector’s writing is often devil-may-care and flagrant, facetiously entreating the listener to “pick your poison, ’cause they sell it on TV.” However, “Best Day of My Life,” to hear Spector tell it, is about “wishing I could do more to change” media-influenced destructive behaviors, while also divesting herself of them in three furious, percussion-backed minutes.
These pervasive lyrical struggles lend themselves, throughout “Best Day of My Life,” to gratifying and innovative musical shifts, such as the song’s bridge into the final chorus. In this passage, Spector layers lyric over damning lyric, resulting in an ever-growing muddle; constantly repeating throughout this passage is the phrase “open your mouth and close your eyes,” which, according to Spector, “references people’s willingness to do anything that will temporarily make them feel better.” “You know that something could be bad for you, but you don’t really care in that moment,” she said. As the passage grows, the original line quickly becomes almost inaudible, as if the listener themself is drowning Spector’s accusation in that same blindness.
When that bridge spills over into the song’s final, impassioned chorus, it doesn’t feel the same as it did previously — Spector’s singing feels lighter, unburdened by the tribulations and concerns of others. Buoyed along by its ever-present and upbeat bass line, “Best Day of My Life” suggests a spirited, full-speed-ahead approach to pop-punk that acknowledges the influences of the past while also looking toward what that could mean for Spector’s future.
Sam Spector’s new single, “Best Day of My Life,” will be released on Feb. 4, 2022. You can pre-save it here.
Aster Zhang is a sophomore and Head Prospect Editor for the 'Prince.' They can be reached on Twitter at @aster_zh or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.