Pale Waves’ third album is the sound of a band unafraid—and more importantly, unapologetic—about who they are. Who Am I?, released in 2021, saw lead vocalist Heather Baron-Gracie open up a more personal side to her songwriting, but its follow-up Unwanted delves even deeper, exploring betrayal, jealousy, depression, rage, addiction, loss—and on the heartbreaking “The Hard Way,” the suicide of a schoolmate. “It’s from me maturing and becoming more comfortable within my own skin that I can be more confident and open,” Baron-Gracie tells Apple Music. “I feel like with the first album, and even slightly with the second album, I was still so timid. As I grow up, I become more sure of myself and that's displayed through how much I'm able to put out there for everyone to see and hear.” Sonically, too, Unwanted is a far tougher proposition than its predecessors. Tracks such as the middle-finger-up pop-punk of the title track and the classic-rock crunch of “Jealousy” hold back some of the Manchester quartet’s more ethereal synth-pop trademarks to deliver a heavier kick. “That was 100% a conscious decision,” Baron-Gracie says. “When the pandemic happened, we were so upset that we couldn't play live, and that definitely influenced the direction we went in with this record, because we knew that when we stepped back onstage, we wanted to have the best time. We wanted to have that more heavy sound sonically; we didn't want to play these slow, sad songs.” That’s not to say Unwanted is short on poignant moments (you can practically taste the grief that powers the epic ballad “Without You,” for instance), yet the roar that breaks through the pain is one of defiance. Read on as Baron-Gracie walks us through her band’s album. “Lies” “We’re easing fans into the transition—we’re placing them in the swimming pool, and we were putting them in the shallow end. Even though there’s something quite dark about the subject matter, it puts people in a good mood because it’s got this drive running through it. It’s so fun to watch people dance to it when we play live.” “Unwanted” “‘Unwanted’ really summarizes the overall record, too—the dark, traumatic themes that run throughout. Feelings of neglect, anger, vanity, jealousy, sadness, depression…a lot of worlds that I think Pale Waves haven't tapped into before. It was really important that we made this record because I feel as a woman in today's society, when we project these feelings, we get labelled crazy. If a man's angry, they’re seen as more confident because they know their point, they know what they want. Whereas when a woman's angry, she's a crazy bitch. I wanted to show other women that it’s OK to feel these things.” “The Hard Way” “It's such a traumatic story about an amazing young girl at my school who had so much potential, but she was being bullied and took her own life because of it. She couldn't take any more of the abuse. I feel partly responsible that I didn't step up when I was a child and I saw that happening. It’s something that’s really affected me throughout my life. I hope that me telling her story in some form will influence other people and show them that everyone's fragile and to be careful with your words and be careful with your actions, because you never know when you're pushing someone too far.” “Jealousy” “I wrote ‘Jealousy’ with Whakaio Taahi from Tonight Alive. I’d written a few songs with him and a lot of them were very soft and mellow and they just weren't sitting right with me. I didn't feel like this was the next Pale Waves record. And then one day I came in and he played the ‘Jealousy’ riff and I was like, ‘Oh my god, you genius. That is amazing. That is exactly the direction that I want to go in! Forget all these soppy songs that we're writing. Let's write about jealousy and make it this sexy, aggressive song!’” “Alone” “’I don't think I've ever been as brutal as I am on this track. It’s about when you say no to someone and they just don't leave you alone. So many times—in clubs, in bars, in goddamn Tesco—where someone comes up to you and they're like, ‘Can I buy you a drink? Can I get your number?’ And you say, ‘Sorry, I'm not interested.’ And they still get all handsy and physical with you. Do you not get the message? Don't touch me. It's as simple as that. Leave me alone. I'm absolutely fine by myself without you. It’s the ultimate rejection song. I just channelled all those nights where I've said no but they've continued to harass me.” “Clean” “Even though there's a lot of negative emotions on the record, I really wanted a moment or two where there was some kind of positivity or some kind of hopeful agenda. I wanted to write a cheesy love song. Like a song that they would play in a movie when the couple was falling in love and decide to run away together. I wanted to capture those moments that you feel when you're falling in love. There's nothing quite like that thrill of the very start of a relationship where those feelings are growing.” “Without You” “I knew that I wanted a huge ballad on the record. I feel like this record, because it's so loud and it's so in-your-face, that this ballad had to be on the same level as tracks like ‘You're So Vain.’ It couldn't just be a ballad where I'm on my guitar or on the piano again. It had to be dynamic and flow through the emotions. ‘Without You’ is about me losing someone so close to my heart that I struggle to comprehend how I can live life without them. It's the sad realization of you have to find a way to get through it and cope with it and realize that they aren't coming back.” “Only Problem” “‘Only Problem’ is about me having this constant thing in my life that I was always battling with and was always pulling me down. It was always something that I relied on in my states of feeling fragile and it brought me back up, but then it would always drop me back down. I had to learn and come to terms of removing that from my life for good. Alcohol would give me that fake confidence that you need when you feel insecure. There can be such reliance on that, and people in this industry normalize it, and it shouldn't be normalized. It can be abused, and I wanted to learn to live a life without it. So I removed it completely, and now I'm much happier.” “You’re So Vain” “There's a lot of pop-punk on the record, which I love, but then you get to ‘You're So Vain’ and it's almost more classic rock and roll in a way. I wanted to push it more in this direction. We came up with the riff first and I was like, ‘Yes! That’s it!’ And then I was like, ‘OK, we need a subject matter that is going to work with this. It needs to be badass. It needs to be confident. It needs to be unapologetic…’ I feel like there's a lot of egotistical people in the music industry, people that I may have looked up to that I've met and I've figured out that they’re an awful person. I channelled my anger towards people's egos with this song. I wanted to take them down a step.” “Reasons to Live” “This has the dark and it has the light. The chorus is the light and verses are the dark. It's about when I was really struggling with my mental health. I felt like it was deteriorating and I felt really fragile, and then I found love that enabled me to see the light. Love pulled me back and showed me a new perspective on things. It helped me get healthier and helped me to really fall in love with things. Even to really fall in love with music again.” “Numb” “I go through periods in life where I hit this wall of depression and it can last days. I don't want to move out of bed, I don't care about anything, I don't care about anyone. I know that a lot of people feel this way and go through the same thing, and I feel it's important when you get to that point to know that other people go through it too, and to be able to relate to something. So I wanted to write a song about the way I feel when I get like that. I wanted it to be really stripped back, just me, an electric guitar, and some harmonies. I didn't want any other distractions, I just wanted everyone to focus on what I was saying.” “Act My Age” “It is about growing older. It’s a battle between being like, ‘Shit, I need to grow up,’ but then also, ‘Oh, shit, I miss when I was a child and I didn't have to worry about anything.’ It’s that realization that everyone gets older and everyone needs to get their shit together. I was turning a page in my life where I was wanting to remove a lot of toxic things out of my life and I was reflecting on childhood and that innocence that we have and wanting to channel some of that into where I am right now.” “So Sick (Of Missing You)” “I wrote this because I was tired of writing about myself or other people that I knew in my life. I was watching Sex Education at the time, and I wrote this about the period where Maeve and Otis aren’t talking and they're missing one another and they’re both like, ‘How could you be so mean to me and just cut me off like that?’ I related to that so much, and I love their relationship. I think it's so interesting and Sex Education is such a good show. After listening through various track listings for the record, it felt like this could be the only closing act. No other track felt right. I didn't want to do the typical Pale Waves thing and finish on the classic ballad, because we've already done that twice.”

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