Editors’ Notes Mike Hadreas’ fifth LP under the Perfume Genius guise is “about connection,” he tells Apple Music. “And weird connections that I’ve had—ones that didn't make sense but were really satisfying or ones that I wanted to have but missed or ones that I don't feel like I'm capable of. I wanted to sing about that, and in a way that felt contained or familiar or fun.” Having just reimagined Bobby Darin’s “Not for Me” in 2018, Hadreas wanted to bring the same warmth and simplicity of classic 1950s and '60s balladry to his own work. “I was thinking about songs I’ve listened to my whole life, not ones that I've become obsessed over for a little while or that are just kind of like soundtrack moments for a summer or something,” he says. “I was making a way to include myself, because sometimes those songs that I love, those stories, don't really include me at all. Back then, you couldn't really talk about anything deep. Everything was in between the lines.” At once heavy and light, earthbound and ethereal, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately features some of Hadreas’ most immediate music to date. “There's a confidence about a lot of those old dudes, those old singers, that I've loved trying to inhabit in a way,” he says. “Well, I did inhabit it. I don't know why I keep saying ‘try.’ I was just going to do it, like, ‘Listen to me, I'm singing like this.’ It's not trying.” Here, he walks us through the album track by track.

Whole Life
“When I was writing that song, I just had that line [‘Half of my whole life is done’]—and then I had a decision afterwards of where I could go. Like, I could either be really resigned or I could be open and hopeful. And I love the idea. That song to me is about fully forgiving everything or fully letting everything go. I’ve realized recently that I can be different, suddenly. That’s been a kind of wild thing to acknowledge, and not always good, but I can be and feel completely different than I've ever felt and my life can change and move closer to goodness, or further away. It doesn't have to be always so informed by everything I've already done.”

Describe
“Originally, it was very plain—sad and slow and minimal. And then it kind of morphed, kind of went to the other side when it got more ambient. When I took it into the studio, it turned into this way dark and light at the same time. I love that that song just starts so hard and goes so full-out and doesn't let up, but that the sentiment and the lyric and my singing is still soft. I was thinking about someone that was sort of near the end of their life and only had like 50% of their memories, or just could almost remember. And asking someone close to them to fill the rest in and just sort of remind them what happened to them and where they've been and who they'd been with. At the end, all of that is swimming together.”

Without You
“The song is about a good moment—or even just like a few seconds—where you feel really present and everything feels like it's in the right place. How that can sustain you for a long time. Especially if you're not used to that. Just that reminder that that can happen. Even if it's brief, that that’s available to you is enough to kind of carry you through sometimes. But it's still brief, it's still a few seconds, and when you tally everything up, it's not a lot. It's not an ultra uplifting thing, but you're not fully dragged down. And I wanted the song to kind of sound that same way or at least push it more towards the uplift, even if that's not fully the sentiment.”

Jason
“That song is very much a document of something that happened. It's not an idea, it’s a story. Sometimes you connect with someone in a way that neither of you were expecting or even want to connect on that level. And then it doesn't really make sense, but you’re able to give each other something that the other person needs. And so there was this story at a time in my life where I was very selfish. I was very wild and reckless, but I found someone that needed me to be tender and almost motherly to them. Even if it's just for a night. And it was really kind of bizarre and strange and surreal, too. And also very fueled by fantasy and drinking. It's just, it's a weird therapeutic event. And then in the morning all of that is just completely gone and everybody's back to how they were and their whole bundle of shit that they're dealing with all the time and it's like it never happened.”

Leave
“That song's about a permanent fantasy. There's a place I get to when I'm writing that feels very dramatic, very magical. I feel like it can even almost feel dark-sided or supernatural, but it's fleeting, and sometimes I wish I could just stay there even though it's nonsense. I can't stay in my dark, weird piano room forever, but I can write a song about that happening to me, or a reminder. I love that this song then just goes into probably the poppiest, most upbeat song that I've ever made directly after it. But those things are both equally me. I guess I'm just trying to allow myself to go all the places that I instinctually want to go. Even if they feel like they don't complement each other or that they don't make sense. Because ultimately I feel like they do, and it's just something I told myself doesn't make sense or other people told me it doesn't make sense for a long time.”

On the Floor
“It started as just a very real song about a crush—which I've never really written a song about—and it morphed into something a little darker. A crush can be capable of just taking you over and can turn into just full projection and just fully one-sided in your brain—you think it's about someone else, but it's really just something for your brain to wild out on. But if that's in tandem with being closeted or the person that you like that's somehow being wrong or not allowed, how that can also feel very like poisonous and confusing. Because it's very joyous and full of love, but also dark and wrong, and how those just constantly slam against each other. I also wanted to write a song that sounded like Cyndi Lauper or these pop songs, like, really angsty teenager pop songs that I grew up listening to that were really helpful to me. Just a vibe that's so clear from the start and sustained and that every time you hear it you instantly go back there for your whole life, you know?”

Your Body Changes Everything
“I wrote ‘Your Body Changes Everything’ about the idea of not bringing prescribed rules into connection—physical, emotional, long-term, short-term—having each of those be guided by instinct and feel, and allowed to shift and change whenever it needed to. I think of it as a circle: how you can be dominant and passive within a couple of seconds or at the exact same time, and you’re given room to do that and you’re giving room to someone else to do that. I like that dynamic, and that can translate into a lot of different things—into dance or sex or just intimacy in general. A lot of times, I feel like I’m supposed to pick one thing—one emotion, one way of being. But sometimes, I’m two contradicting things at once. Sometimes, it seems easier to pick one, even if it’s the worse one, just because it’s easier to understand. But it’s not for me.”

Moonbend
“That's a very physical song to me. It's very much about bodies, but in a sort of witchy way. This will sound really pretentious, but I wasn't trying to write a chorus or like make it like a sing-along song, I was just following a wave. So that whole song feels like a spell to me—like a body spell. I'm not super sacred about the way things sound, but I can be really sacred about the vibe of it. And I feel like somehow we all clicked in to that energy, even though it felt really personal and almost impossible to explain, but without having to, everybody sort of fell into it. The whole thing was really satisfying in a way that nobody really had to talk about. It just happened.”

Just a Touch
“That song is like something I could give to somebody to take with them, to remember being with me when we couldn't be with each other. Part of it's personal and part of it I wasn't even imagining myself in that scenario. It kind of starts with me and then turns into something, like a fiction in a way. I wanted it to be heavy and almost narcotic, but still like honey on the body or something. I don't want that situation to be hot—the story itself and the idea that you can only be with somebody for a brief amount of time and then they have to leave. You don't want anybody that you want to be with to go. But sometimes it's hot when they're gone. It’s hard to be fully with somebody when they're there. I take people for granted when they're there, and I’m much less likely to when they're gone. I think everybody is like that, but I might take it to another level sometimes.”

Nothing at All
“There's just some energetic thing where you just feel like the circle is there: You are giving and receiving or taking, and without having to say anything. But that song, ultimately, is about just being so ready for someone that whatever they give you is okay. They could tell you something really fucked up and you're just so ready for them that it just rolls off you. It's like we can make this huge dramatic, passionate thing, but if it's really all bullshit, that's totally fine with me too. I guess because I just needed a big feeling. I don't care in the end if it's empty.”

One More Try
“When I wrote my last record, I felt very wild and the music felt wild and the way that I was writing felt very unhinged. But I didn't feel that way. And with this record I actually do feel it a little, but the music that I'm writing is a lot more mature and considered. And there's something just really, really helpful about that. And that song is about a feeling that could feel really overwhelming, but it's written in a way that feels very patient and kind.”

Some Dream
“I think I feel very detached a lot of the time—very internal and thinking about whatever bullshit feels really important to me, and there's not a lot of room for other people sometimes. And then I can go into just really embarrassing shame. So it's about that idea, that feeling like there's no room for anybody. Sometimes I always think that I'm going to get around to loving everybody the way that they deserve. I'm going to get around to being present and grateful. I'm going to get around to all of that eventually, but sometimes I get worried that when I actually pick my head up, all those things will be gone. Or people won't be willing to wait around for me. But at the same time that I feel like that's how I make all my music is by being like that. So it can be really confusing. Some of that is sad, some of that's embarrassing, some of that's dramatic, some of it's stupid. There’s an arc.”

Borrowed Light
“Probably my favorite song on the record. I think just because I can't hear it without having a really big emotional reaction to it, and that's not the case with a lot of my own songs. I hate being so heavy all the time. I’m very serious about writing music and I think of it as this spiritual thing, almost like I'm channeling something. I’m very proud of it and very sacred about it. But the flip side of that is that I feel like I could've just made that all up. Like it's all bullshit and maybe things are just happening and I wasn't anywhere before, or I mean I'm not going to go anywhere after this. This song's about what if all this magic I think that I'm doing is bullshit. Even if I feel like that, I want to be around people or have someone there or just be real about it. The song is a safe way—or a beautiful way—for me to talk about that flip side.”

SONG
Whole Life
1
3:53
 
Describe
2
4:44
 
Without You
3
2:35
 
Jason
4
3:05
 
Leave
5
3:05
 
On the Floor
6
5:03
 
Your Body Changes Everything
7
4:13
 
Moonbend
8
5:21
 
Just a Touch
9
3:28
 
Nothing at All
10
4:27
 
One More Try
11
3:01
 
Some Dream
12
4:18
 
Borrowed Light
13
3:22
 

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