Singer-songwriter Rae Fitzgerald’s recent release Popular Songs for Wholesome Families is a diverse collection of songs strung together with meaningful lyrics and Fitzgerald’s beautiful voice. The instrumentation varies from raw acoustic guitar to spacey synth effects, but the beauty of Fitzgerald’s work remains.
Fitzgerald’s voice is strong and powerful. There exists no wispiness or wavering. Her voice is similar to Sara Bareilles’ beautiful voice. Each song opens with Fitzgerald’s voice and typically just one instrument, like an acoustic guitar or drum. Fitzgerald’s voice is the anchor to her album, the anchor from which her lyrics soar.
My favorite aspect of Popular Songs for Wholesome Families is the particularly honest lyrics. Fitzgerald covers topics like drug addiction, American privilege, and bad parents that you can’t help loving. The way she goes about covering such real topics with lyrics like “The future is just a pill that you take / to get through the day” (“Tower”) is brilliant. Fitzgerald is able to tackle authentic issues with haunting lyrics that don’t employ cliches. Think Margot & The Nuclear So and Sos, particularly “Broadripple is Burning.”
“Dark Man” is one of the best examples of her eerily realistic lyrics. The track opens with the acoustic guitar, and after a few measures, Fitzgerald’s voice enters in. The chorus begins with “How did I get to the place that I call home?”; it seems that’s the question the whole song is looking to answer. What’s the relationship between one’s upbringing and the final result? The repeated lyric “My mother raised us kids Christians / and no we’re tattooed pagans” works as further exposition on the topic. At first, the title of the track “Dark Man” seems odd, but then we reach the lyric, “My father was a very dark man / and that dark man was my best friend.” That very poignant lyric puts its finger on a common situation: you know your father’s lifestyle isn’t healthy, but because he’s your father, you love him anyway. Fitzgerald expands upon this topic of unfatherly fathers later in “Magic Town.”
I could go on for pages raving about Rae Fitzgerald’s beautiful voice and substantive lyrics, but for now I will leave you with one of my favorite lyrics from “Earth, Everything”: “Welcome to earth / everything hurts.” Needless to say, Popular Songs for Wholesome Families is quite the ironic album title.–Krisann Janowitz