Desire chews through all our good sense. To pine after something is to lose sight of ourselves, to lose sight of all logic, and to give in to some of the direst emotions in our range. But it doesn’t always have to be this way. Sometimes, the act of wanting can be nourishing, even romantic. Sometimes, desire can open us up and fulfill us rather than make us certifiably crazy in our praxis. Pining can be comfortable, which is the lesson Snoh Aalegra inadvertently teaches us on her velvety sophomore album, - Ugh, those feels again.
- Ugh, those feels again is a smart collection of love songs and personal narratives, all working to the point of demystifying desire and making it a natural part of human expression. Snoh makes pining feel romantic and vast, not desperate. Never once do we feel that Snoh is out of her depth on these tunes; we root for her and her love. There’s a touch of hope to her approach to desire, making pining and falling for someone feel secure. She gives us risk and reward in the same breath, providing a fresh depth to a staple genre of love songs.
Take in the title of the second track, “I Want You Around.” Immediately, we get a sense of longing that feels both wistful and gnawing. Snoh leads with her desire, singing, “I fall for you every time I try to resist you.” The push and pull she illustrates with her silky vocal tone does not feel frightening nor pathetic. She yearns for her lover despite her best sense, but never once on “I Want You Around” do we feel Snoh is silly or hyperbolic. Therein lies the comfort. For as much as she laments being a victim of her own emotions with the record’s title, Snoh is secure in her feelings.
“I swear it’s hard to keep these feelings to myself,” she admits on the second verse, and why should she restrain herself? Snoh uses “I Want You Around” to demonstrate the importance of giving into and feeding your romantic impulses. There is no shame to her desire. It’s a hushed breathing and heavy petting kind of love she’s dealing with, and she adores it. When she relays her desire to “feel you” during the breakdown, we realize pining can have extraordinary depth. That is, the fiery and festering yearning does not need to have such a dogged connotation. With this cut, Snoh makes longing sound stunning and organic.
From here, we transition to “Situationship,” which laments the new layers of confusion brought on by modern dating. The push and pull of the previous track persists, but it’s on the second verse where Snoh really leans into her pining motif. “So tell me how to resist what we have when it feels right?” she questions. The verse goes on to interrogate the need to keep things casual when a connection between Snoh and her lover is so obvious and burning.
There’s a fresh frustration to “Situationship,” potentially leading us to believe pining is genuinely a misery. Snoh manages to save the track with open lyrics like “Too many times you and I made love in my mind (Yeah) / The truth is that I miss you, no way I can forget you now, no.” Her honesty and specificity make “Situationship” another installment in the comfortable pining canon. The human touch and gumption, admitting her base fantasies, elevate the track. We don’t feel bad for Snoh, we feel for her and with her. We feel for ourselves.
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Through her sharp writing, we tap into our memories and give this track body. While pining can leave us feeling helpless, something is empowering about how forthright Snoh is on this track. The urgent “Loving you is everything” bridge gives us the understood life-or-death feeling of falling in love, but Snoh’s lack of resignation and persistence across the song keeps us from spiraling. The tangibility of “Situationship” makes pining feel damn near necessary. Where we associate pining with the pathetic, Snoh Aalegra sounds confident in her desires, and we stand strong with her.
This strength carries over to the next cut, “Whoa,” where Snoh transforms her desire into demand. We open with “I’ma tell you this one time / Boy, I want you to be mine / Can I come and see you now?” leading into a host of other questions-turned-demands of physical intimacy. On this one, Snoh turns her pining into paradise. She makes desire sound novel and inviting, the way she paints her lover as her intoxicant and her grounding force all at once. Her pleas for her partner to stay come off neither trite nor weak. Instead, Snoh sounds impassioned. She pulls the tender passion out of pining without much effort.
That’s not to say Snoh Aalegra is above a touch of madness. On the second verse, she taps into the overwhelming sensation of longing, singing, “All I see is you right now.” Blinded in the best way, Snoh stands with us on this line. It’s a humanizing moment for the singer who has spent the first arc of her sophomore album turning yearning into gold. This approach translates into the opening of “Find Someone Like You,” which gives off the ubiquitous and blanketing sensation of desire without coming across as damning or trapping.
“Even when you not around, I feel you boy / I feel you boy, yeah / Tangled in your love and your energy,” Snoh intones. We’re playing in the same field as the standout line from “Whoa,” wherein Snoh gives into her pining and her impulse. Leaning into the after-images of an uncertain love, Snoh uses “Find Someone Like You” to portray the enveloping qualities of desire, and how they can soothe us as opposed to making us seethe.
However, seething does make an appearance on the tenth track, “You.” The hook (“I just can’t live without you”) is a simple and effective look at the dire nature of falling in love. The hook echoes sentiments Snoh laced into damn near every track on her album. As she admits to being unable to think or do without her lover, we get the sense that Snoh might be powerless. This feeling would track if it weren’t for her empowering vocal and the strength with which she delivers every note. There’s no despondence on this cut. Snoh merely offers her emotions with an astute pen. Here, pining is presented as a part of Snoh Aalegra, but not one that will take her down.
Finally, there is the resolution of “I Didn’t Mean To Fall In Love.” The cut makes pining feel less like a massive risk and more like an option (“Love was always around”). It makes the surprise of stumbling into love feel full-bodied and safe, especially with the rich timbre of Snoh’s voice comforting us. We get the sense that pining is something to be relished, for at least we get to bask in the sensation of burgeoning love. Besides, it’s always better to be with than without.
Across the album, Snoh takes on the role of easing our woes. She portrays a fair image of pining while eliminating all fear and negative connotation. Snoh Aalegra’s - Ugh, those feels again makes falling in love sound engaging, romantic, and safe—while still being thrilling enough to make your face hot. As she sings on the final cut, “Peace,” “Peace in my mind gon’ save my life.” Meaning, in humanizing pining, Snoh brings both herself and the listener astounding clarity. Desire may make us sprung, but as Snoh demonstrates, these emotions do not have to be for the worse.