Song of the Week
“Alone” by Doja Cat is an ode to self-love. A message sent to the top of the charts in a world of social media insecurity and hook-up culture. Cat’s album Planet Her reached No. 2 on the Billboard’s 200 after being released in June 2021. The impressive album includes five songs that charted in the top 20 of Billboard Top 100: “Kiss Me More,” “You Right,” “Need to Know,” “Woman” and “Get Into It (Yuh).” The combination of trap beats with sultry pop singing creates an album that could define the love language of a generation. I chose “Alone” for song of the week because I think it is the most overlooked song on this otherwise beloved album.
The gentle fingerpicking sets a sentimental mood at the start of the song. Cat’s classic sharp beat drops into the background but makes sure not to overpower her thoughtful lyrics. “Baby, When you fought me at the door / Kinda hard to force what’s natural / Maybe you don’t want what you need most / Is it crazy I’m not scared to be alone?” When fighting with someone you care about there are two paths ahead of you: walk away or keep fighting. The only way to answer this question is to know what you’re fighting for. I think what Doja Cat is saying is that it’s natural to push people away when you need to find yourself, but when you’re scared to be alone it leaves you stuck. You know that you need that time but can’t give it to yourself out of fear. You’re stuck in this in-between angry place where you won’t let the people who care and can help you but also won’t help yourself.
“Doja Cat Planet Her Day Party 2” by Naz (@dojaclouds) is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.
The post chorus has this haunting repetition. Words can be used in a negative light enough that it stains them forever. Cat tries to soften these words’ image because we have created this ideal unfulfillable identity for ourselves that spending any time alone makes us “less than.” How are you supposed to figure out you when you’re too busy trying to figure out what others want from you? “Now I barely need ya / Do what you do best and be (alone) / Gotta tell him, “Rest in peace” /Bet you thought I’d die (alone) /It don’t make sense to me / But I keep my head up high (alone) / You ain’t even there for me / But now, you’re scared to be (alone).” What this partner does best is push her away. When you push someone away long enough, eventually they stop coming back. This pressure that members of the younger generation put on themselves to be in a relationship, whatever kind, can be astronomical. This need for a partner makes people stay way longer than they should in sometimes abusive relationships. Of course, ending a relationship of any kind is gonna suck, but it is nowhere near the end of the world. When someone isn’t there for you, you’re only hurting yourself by staying with them.
In the first verse, Cat gives her how-to for healing. Her voice flutters above the fading background before striking in full force on the word Bye. “Too many drinks to think about you / I had to many thoughts to let you wander / Now you’re an afterthought, I lost you / And now you want me, babe / You want me, but it’s bye.” Escapism is a common coping mechanism after a breakup, and for the younger generation, alcohol is a popular one. Many young people will get stuck in break-up make-up situationships that only end with both parties hurting each other more and more. Cat is calling us to end this cycle. How are we ever supposed to find long lasting happiness in a relationship if we keep looking to an idealized version of an imaginary person rather than who a partner really is? We act surprised when that person makes the same mistakes, and we forgive them the same way; it’s EXHAUSTING.
Cat gives the solution to this problem so many young people face: Learn to be alone
Her voice has intense character as she switches over to rapping the following lines, while the flowering backing vocals give an angelic push forward into Cat’s voice. “Givin’ me reasons to fly / Pack up my shit and be wise / Jump in the ride / Hit up my dude on the side / … / Either we fuck or we fight /But I got the feelin’ you’re right / I’m out my mind / Doesn’t make sense when I cry / If we can’t make up, ‘least we try.” If the only time you’re happy in a relationship is during sex, I would call that a red flag. She didn’t understand why she was so distraught all the time, and neither did her partner. In the end, she agrees with them admitting she feels crazy but realizes it’s because the relationship was so horrible – not because she herself was. If you’re angry and sad all the time, it’s your body trying to tell you that something isn’t right. We all eventually learn this hard lesson because there’s only so much a person can take before they have no choice but to leave. Now you have to be alone.
“Doja Cat 2019 BET Awards2” by The Knockturnal is licensed under CC BY 3.0.
The second and final verse is where the real preaching begins. You can hear the sureness in her belief of every word. This whirlwind of emotions is spitfired at the listener. “Started feelin’ like I failed my team / Missin’ gigs for you, bet you never felt like me / Different levels to the game, that’s fair / Spendin’ bands last week will your ass act cheap / Lonely at the top while your ass miles deep / Got me thinkin’ that you scared of yourself, not me.” I think when she says team she means women in general. She was giving up chances to perform for her partner, which is something they would’ve never have done for her. Imbalances in a relationship like this are a surefire sign that your partner is fine letting you do the heavy lifting. This partner does a lot for appearances, which Cat seems to be implying is a sign of how easy it is for them to pretend to be something they are not. The last line here hits hard at this partner for aiming this anxiety at Cat when it clearly is about something else.
“Impossible, from a Prius to gold carriages / … / You couldn’t tell that the both of us needed a whole therapist / I made you fam when I greeted your whole parents / But later, I realized they ain’t teach you what no sharin’ is / I know you hearin’ this, I know you scared of it / But bein’ lonely better then ‘needs control; cherish it.” The last line of verse two is the best line in the entire song. I swear it gives me goosebumps every time no matter how many times I listen to it. Earlier in the song, Cat’s tone is more forgiving and teaching, but in the final verse she gets serious and you can even hear a hint of anger in her words. Cat is saying we all need to be grateful for our alone time, especially because that is when introspective growth happens. Controlling people don’t notice it, but if they spend time with themselves they just might. The use of the word cherish is so beautiful and fits this song like a glove. We have everything so backwards. It takes bravery to learn to be alone, not the other way around. Cat points out that our priorities and what we respect is all wrong. With messages like this being sent into the world of media, maybe there is hope for our generation’s future of healthy relationships after all. The thing about bravery is, you have to feel the fear and do it anyway.
That’s what I think Doja Cat is saying in “Alone.” Let me know what you think!