Editors’ Notes On her 2016 debut LP, Emotions and Math, Margaret Glaspy found ways to the make the singer-songwriter form—just a guitar and a voice—sound new again. But for its follow-up, Glaspy has ditched her guitar almost entirely, opting instead to thread her vocals—sometimes processed, sometimes not—through lush beds of piano and electronics. “It felt different just to try and be good or genuine with other instruments, to see how my vocabulary would either change or stay the same,” she tells Apple Music. “But all the rest of it was the same, just as hard as it was before to write good songs.” Devotion is a set of modern pop that’s at once cerebral and soulful, searching and off-center, inspired in large part by living in New York. “I think the record is about seeing what happens when you let your guard down a little more,” she says. “One of the stigmas of being a New Yorker is that everybody has got pretty big walls up, and you don't really want to let people in. But you see it all the time, that people are very willing to help and actually are pretty empathetic. I feel that way a lot in the city, where you focus on trying to open yourself up more because the given is to be pretty closed. I feel that more and more, toward everything: relationships, toward people that are younger than me, songwriters or musicians around me that want guidance, my family. I feel like it's all a rumination on being open and being devoted to that.” Here, Glaspy walks us through every song on the album.

Killing What Keeps Us Alive
“I actually wrote a short story that was kind of the mothership from where this song came from. It was a love story between two young people that had a very short life expectancy. I think it applies pretty heavily now as we learn more and more about climate change and the environment and knowing that it’s fragile—it’s a little more in the air these days. It's a bit of a feedback loop, saying if you keep living like there are going to be infinite tomorrows, it will continue to kill your surroundings in a certain way, and ties into the love story in the sense that you have to kind of seize the moment: If you love someone, let them know.”

Without Him
“I think it’s about wondering what you do without someone that opens you up to other possibilities in your mind and the way you look at things. It centers on the feeling of the ups and downs of loving someone and the way that can change you. To me, it feels like when love really kind of hits you, you evolve quite a bit. Because you see something in a person that shows potential in yourself. That's definitely where that song lives.”

Young Love
“It's pretty simple, and captures the feeling of crossing the threshold from just maybe liking someone or being with someone, to kind of realizing that that's your person. I feel like there's so many different notions about what love is from the time you're tiny, right? You get fed a lot of different narratives—from what marriage is supposed to be and what family is supposed to be and what love is supposed to feel like and love is supposed to look like. You can't help but be kind of affected by the narratives that you watch, see, and read. I think that this was a genuine account of seeing it for what it is and not for what gets fed to you.”

You’ve Got My Number
“It was pretty liberating to make a song that took a lot of different sonic turns and to write a song that felt a little more flippant. There are a lot of serious sentiments on this record; this one felt fun, and totally explorative in terms of where we could go with it. There was a kind of Janet Jackson feeling to it, and it was really fun to think about groove in different ways, to look at the drums in a very different way than I have ever had before, to write a song that just says, ‘If you want to find me, you've got my number.’”

Stay With Me
“In some ways it's a cousin to ‘Without Him.’ It's asking someone to stay with you, like, ‘If you stay with me, I promise I will be on my best behavior.’ And it says, ‘Who’s the clown and who's the savior?’ So looking at it and saying between the two of us, sometimes I can't tell who’s the lighthearted one, who’s the one that kind of keeps the ship up and running and stays kind of savior-like or maybe a little more stable. The reason why it goes back to 'me, you, me, you' is because I think it changes. In all relationships. I think that that song explores the passing of that torch back and forth. How we can both kind of be the yin and yang.”

So Wrong It’s Right
“I'd say that song is a kind of cousin to ‘You've Got My Number.’ We were able to just blow the roof off and make something that was fast and fun. We could be kind of fleeting, able to say that all bets are off a little bit or the rules don't apply as much. It’s an irrational portrait of someone just flying off the handle for a night. I think it was fun to investigate those kinds of narratives on this record. I feel like I hadn't done that quite as much, and it was fun to see how to put those kinds of songs together.”

Heartbreak
“It's one of my favorites on the record. We were able to utilize different technical things in that song—like string samples—and also go there in terms of playing with that style, having something more centered around soul. It was an opportunity for me to really sing, unencumbered by anything, and let that be the focus. Aretha Franklin. Barbra Streisand—especially when Babs was doing stuff like Funny Girl and Hello, Dolly! and singing actual show tunes. She would just sing her ass off, some of the best singing I've ever heard. Whitney Houston. Young Mariah Carey. There are these singers that are able to sing at a world-class level and it almost feels like there's a sense of athleticism around it, while also being some of the most soulful things you've ever heard. I'm starting to feel more and more connected to that lineage and wanting to understand how to do that better. This was me scratching the surface.”

You Amaze Me
“This song was kind of a surprise. I had been working on it and I was humming it in the studio while we were waiting to get sounds, singing in the vocal booth to myself. My friend [producer] Tyler [Chester] just said to hit record, and so we recorded it and it ended up being a pretty magical little tidbit on the record. I was not expecting for it to be on the record at all, and it was kind of a cool moment from Tyler to take the reins. Everyone shut up and we pushed record and then there it is.”

Devotion
“I'm proud of my songwriting on that song. One of my MOs is to capture the gray area, as opposed to the peaks and the valleys. I feel like everybody lives their lives in the gray area. Nothing is just black and white. Even though you're happy, there's something sad going on at all times. And even when you're sad, there's good things in the world. This song explores the feeling of when you are able to share with someone that you're angry or that you're emotional, it usually means that you care enough about them to show them that side of you. For myself, I know that if someone offends me, I'm upset, I kind of write it off and keep going. I don't always say it, and I think that in this song, it kind of shows that when you care about someone, you're able to say, 'I'm angry,’ or ‘I'm emotional,' 'I'm upset,' or even 'I'm happy and that meant a lot to me.’ The point is to say it's a sign of my devotion when I show you my emotion, it's a sign that I love you and I'm connected to you if I'm able to be real with you.”

Vicious
“Tyler played a lot on this record. He's an amazing piano player and bass player, works with electronics really well. This track was mostly live. We probably overdubbed some bass in there somewhere, but it was an opportunity to just make music and have it be very straightforward. It’s about finding these characters in life that for some reason just feel a little rough around the edges, a little bitter maybe in a certain way. Or when you see someone that's being a little mean to the people around you, kind of calling it out and calling it for what it is.”

What’s the Point
“A portrait of someone that's asking themselves, ‘What's the point in really doing anything if everything's going to go to s**t anyway?’ I suppose I sing about things a lot—my brain works pretty visually. I always have this feeling when I see a movie and the characters stay more stagnant or nothing evolves—I feel a little bit had on some level. Like, ‘That wasn't that great, it kind of just stayed.' In the beginning of this song, the narrator feels like there's no point in anything. By the end, the person says, ‘Oh, I'm doing it so that I can be able to tell someone else that I relate to the pain and it's going to be okay. I'm still alive, I'm surviving, it's all good.’ That felt like a feat for me as a writer, to be able to have someone evolve from the beginning of the song to the end.”

Consequences
“This record is not really centered around politics. It wasn't overtly inspired by that at all, but I'm still alive and feeling all the feelings that everyone else is feeling. I enjoy encouraging questions a little bit. I think that ‘Consequences’ was me asking myself, what happens after this, will there be consequences or a quiz, will I stay oblivious or will I fight it and start a riot? If the world just goes on spinning, how do you want to spend your life and how much of a ruckus do you want to make and how much do we just want to go home and be with our families and be comfortable? I think that those sentiments are about how much do you engage, how much do you stay to yourself? I think that there isn't some finite answer.”

SONG
Killing What Keeps Us Alive
1
3:18
 
Without Him
2
3:37
 
Young Love
3
4:05
 
You've Got My Number
4
4:12
 
Stay with Me
5
3:37
 
So Wrong It's Right
6
3:16
 
Heartbreak
7
4:16
 
You Amaze Me
8
2:13
 
Devotion
9
3:57
 
Vicious
10
2:39
 
What's the Point
11
2:54
 
Consequences
12
3:29