MAY’s “PHONE ME” is off the hook | Tracks

MAY's “PHONE ME” is off the hook | Tracks

Sixteen months into the pandemic, London-based MAY decided she couldn’t wait for public performance restrictions to be lifted. So she arranged props in an empty room, planned costume changes (the kinds of costumes people created when they weren’t allowed in the shops), and filmed a six-song set called LIVE, LADDER & SHE for upload to YouTube. A Central Saint Martins graduate in fine art, the event symbolised the fascination for fashion, art, and music, both individually but also how they all intertwine, that underscores MAY’s artistry.

The “gig” commences with cold synth chords; MAY wears a winter hat, heavy sweater, and a striped scarf is wrapped over her head as if The Cat In The Hat had just diagnosed her toothache. She looks at the camera and parts her lips as if to start singing. Instead, she closes them again and eyelids shut as if what just happened was a false start or purely coincidental. The next time she opens her mouth, it’s with purpose.

“PHONE ME,” which appears more-or-less fully formed in the middle of the recital, has been newly recorded and released with a statement that MAY is not one who is lost for words. The overdriven beat might be drawn from hyperpop and hip-hop, but it swaggers to the cadence of “Hollaback Girl” and the how-can-anyone-be-that-cool confidence of M.I.A..

Despite this display, MAY aims to have the beat undermine her soft melody. She says, “Through explosive, distorted beats and delicate melody, the track expresses frustrations with succumbing to our addictions whether being to technology, a habit or to a person – juxtaposed with a deep longing for what we want the most.”

When it starts, MAY cycles through a number of women’s names as if scrolling through her contacts. But the name she’s really looking for is Siri. A pendulum swings between two tones that double as ancient ringback tones and an ambulance siren. “I know you’ve got to go . . . I know you work today,” she sings to her friends with her voice almost melting into a despondent boredom. The drum kicks in and it needs a fix: “Phone me!”

“”PHONE ME” pushes and pulls,” May says, “between the feeling of being completely out of control to having complete control.” The control appears to express itself in a level, but jazzy set of chord changes. Suddenly she’s ticking chores off a list and making herself useful. But this delusion only lasts so long and she has to scratch that itch.

The track’s playfulness obscures some of the artfulness in its structure. May explains, “The changing tones of voice could be said to be different parts of me – exaggerated and humorous – playing with the idea of characters and versions of ourselves we play and flip between in our daily lives, showing both vulnerability and power.” Just like in that home-concert film, you need to wait for the right cues.

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