For FLETCHER—the notoriously unfiltered queer pop singer from Asbury Park, New Jersey—love hit hard. “Twentysomething relationships are always portrayed in extremes,” she tells Apple Music. “It's either everything's great and happily ever after, or toxic and destructive and fuck you.” But on The (S)ex Tapes, her emotional third EP, she shares her own experiences in a years-long on-again off-again relationship, most of which have felt closer to a messier middle. “It's not black and white, that’s the whole thing. It works, but it also doesn’t. Personally, I'm still figuring out my sexuality, still asking hard questions, still growing. It’s just really fucking complicated.”
The project's title implies a new level of openness for the songwriter (“A sex tape is someone being captured in their most vulnerable form,” she says), and the songs have the intimate, confessional tone of diary entries. “Making this EP was extra emotional because I’m still literally in the thick of it—I'm heartbroken, I'm confused,” she says. “Songwriting is the best therapy.” Tapes was executive produced by Malay, who has worked with Frank Ocean and John Legend, among others, and is the sort of heart-wrenching pop record that also works on the dance floor. It was a way to avoid singing sad songs throughout her whole tour. “I told Malay: I'll sing some sad shit, but make it feel good.” Read on for the inside story behind every song.
Silence "I wrote this with Emily Warren and Caroline Ailin, the duo behind many of Dua Lipa's hits, and it’s exactly the stage I’m going through right now. The idea behind the song is wrestling with this feeling that you still have growing up to do. It goes: ‘All I need is time and space and silence/Cut communication because I'm trying/To learn that I can lose you and survive it.’ It’s about that gut instinct of knowing that you need to be by yourself and gain some more life experience before you can be a good, mature partner. The bassline is my absolute favorite. It’s by this really badass bassist chick named Blu DeTiger who was going to play with me on the road before quarantine hit. Maybe next year.”
If I Hated You “This was the very first song I wrote for this project. It’s about how when things get hard, it’s easier to be angry than it is to be sad. To think to yourself, ‘This would be so much easier if I hated you, and I kind of wish you had done something to fuck me over so that I had more of a reason to just split. But the reality, of course, is that you’re so understanding and compassionate and you get me, so I keep coming back.’”
Bitter “Sometimes you want to move on to a new person but you know you aren’t ready, and that’s a tug-of-war that you have with yourself. To be broken up with somebody that you still really care about, that’s painful. And as easy as it sounds to move on with someone new, that’s actually very hard.”
The One "The inspiration behind this song’s production was very Jersey. Being from New Jersey and going to fist-pumpy clubs my whole life, that Jersey house beat hits close to home. It feels carefree and young. Me exploring my sexuality is something that's been a big conversation in this relationship, and ‘The One' is about the times that you do feel sexy, bold, and free—and empowered to explore your own process. The lyrics say, 'You're not the one/But you're the one right now.’ It’s casual. Sexuality is a really nuanced and confusing thing, and as a queer woman, I view it in a pretty fluid way. Learning that in the context of a relationship in which I still really love somebody has been very complicated, but I still deserve that opportunity to understand myself.”
Shh...Don’t Say It “Britney Spears’ Blackout was a huge inspiration for this one, as was Timbaland and Tame Impala—that super lush guitar sound underneath each verse. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite songs I've ever made. Lyrically, it's the stage after 'The One,' when somebody tells you they love you and you just cannot hear it. Literally, it's me saying, 'Please shut up. Don’t tell me that. I can't handle any more emotional baggage. I'm still in love with my ex. This was supposed to be casual.'”
Feel “The album traces my own personal experiences, so ‘Feel’ is the next logical moment after ‘Don’t Say It.’ Like, after the numbing and distractions stop working and you've gone out a million times, reality sets in and that person isn't there anymore. That’s ‘Feel.’ Sitting on the floor in the shower, crying, because seeing other people doesn’t make me forget about you. It was written by Jenn Decilveo, who I wrote 'All Love' with, and this incredible singer-songwriter Caitlyn Smith, who is based out of Nashville. When I heard it, it was in a voice memo with maybe one guitar, but I was mid-breakup, so it completely crushed me. I knew I had to put my own take on it.”
Sex (With My Ex) “Ah, the ‘I miss you’ text. I was pretty reluctant to put this song out because it's so personal and fresh, but it is an important piece of the story. The last lyric is ‘Goodbye forever/Until next time,’ which is honestly the way we ended up. Limbo. But who hasn’t been there? This was probably the hardest song on the EP to write, but in the end, I knew that’s why I had to write it. It was a rip-the-Band-Aid-off moment, and hopefully it will help me better understand who I am.”
If I Hated You
Bitter (feat. Kito)
Shh...Don't Say It
Sex (With My Ex)
7 SONGS, 21 MINUTES
SEPTEMBER 9, 2020
CAPITOL RECORDS; ℗ 2020 SNAPBACK ENTERTAINMENT LLC, UNDER EXCLUSIVE LICENSE TO UMG RECORDINGS, INC.