This song is the musicification of walking on thin ice.
Lizzy McAlpine is the queen of the soft pop ballad. That’s a bold statement, I’m aware, but her voice has just the right amount of soul and desperation for me to feel everything she sings.
I don’t particularly know much about falling in love. I mean, I do know a good amount. I read loads of novels, watch endless movies, and listen to music like McAlpine’s on a regular basis. Occasionally I experience a flurry or a flint of the magic myself. But the stories that she’s created in her songs, the blunt lyricism and the raw emotion, they get me there.
“Hate to be lame” is one of these songs. Released April 5, 2022 and the 11th track off her sophomore album five seconds flat, McAlpine featured pop artist FINNEAS to help her contextualize when you know you’re in love. Love songs are about as popular as mosquitos in summer, so it’s difficult to find something as original and equally relatable as “hate to be lame.” The song not only captures what it feels like to be on the verge of saying “I love you,” but it demonstrates the anxieties that come with saying those words. It’s a love song, but it’s also a song about the fear and anxiety of what happens once those words are said.
It’s her simple, yet relatable lyrics that draw me in, captivated by that first feeling. She begins this immediately, with the opening line, “It’s always on the tip of my tongue.” This is McAlpine’s first image for what this love feels like, how the words seem to come to her without further thought or questioning. It’s followed by, “I read an article on the internet, told me that’s how you know you’re fallin’ in love.” I love how simple and relevant this image is. It makes me remember the points in my life where I questioned it too, where I typed the words into google hoping I’d gain some sense of clarity from a Seventeen article titled something like “Five Ways You Know You’re in Love.”
When we arrive at the chorus, we feel the anxiety, bordering on embarrassment. McAlpine sings, “Hate to admit but it might be true. Hate to admit but I think you knew. Hate to be lame but I might love you.” It’s like she’s apologizing for her feelings, trying as hard as she can not to feel that way. Not to ruin anything. Not to say something she shouldn’t. This is contrasted by the lines in FINNEAS’s verse. He sings, “If I could rewind, would there be some butterfly effect? What if we never met? What if the stars never aligned?” The butterfly effect represents the idea that FINNEAS wishes they could go back to the beginning of their relationship to stop it from starting. They’re both falling in love apprehensively, regretfully.
I think it’s important to note the tone behind the lyrics as well. It’s obviously not happy-go-lucky. The beat drop during the bridge intensifies the song and matches the questioning in her lyrics: “Do I love him? Do I need him? Do I want him? Do I care enough to say that I love him, that I need him?” Her anxieties are apparent; her emotional spiral parallels the tempo during this moment. And it’s brought to fruition with the end of the bridge: “If I need him, maybe that will make him stay. If I lie, will I still feel this way?” The doubt becomes obvious as McAlpine questions whether saying “I love you” will soften the damage that’s already apparent within the relationship.
What’s so beautiful about this song is that it attempts to examine what it feels like to be in love but have severe anxieties and regrets about the relationship to begin with. It’s about feeling it and wanting so badly for some sense of relief from the questioning inside an anxious mind. But, at the same time, feeling embarrassed and “lame” for wanting to say it, knowing that neither person is falling willingly. This song is the musicification of walking on thin ice. Could the words “I love you” save them or tear them apart?