Review | Astrid Sonne knows that baby-making music should be weird


Until recently, the strangest pop song I’d ever heard about procreation was “I Wanna Have Your Babies,” a bubbly reproductive prelude from 2007, delivered with giddy-horny gusto by the British blue-eyed soul singer Natasha Bedingfield. Whereas most pop songs utilize at least a modicum of gloss to conceal the thirstiest elements of the human condition, this thing sounded like it was shot full of caffeine and truth serum. “Trust me,” Bedingfield sang on the bridge, “it would scare you that I’ve picked out the church, all the schools, all the names.” Unhinged and unashamed, “I Wanna Have Your Babies” still sounds as exhilarating as it does believable.

Baby-making music hadn’t felt as bizarre since. Then Astrid Sonne came along with “Do You Wanna,” the haunting highlight of the young Danish composer’s starkly evocative new album, “Great Doubt.” The song finds Sonne asking the big question — “Do you wanna have a baby?” — at least two different ways. At the outset, it’s something like a blunt-force pickup line, drained of solicitousness, flirtatiousness or anything resembling desire. “You look at me,” Sonne sings, sounding like Sade after an extra Xanax. “Do you wanna have a baby?” Then the drumbeat — hi-hat ticking like a clock; kick drum pounding like a headache — drops out, and Sonne retreats into her own mind. “I think to myself, ‘Do you wanna have a baby?’” Her voice sounds every bit as cool and matter-of-fact as before. Maybe we’ve been inside her head the entire time.

Either way, this is new turf for Sonne, whose previous albums were largely instrumental efforts that drew heavily on ambient music and classic minimalism. “Great Doubt” toggles back and forth between wordless soundscaping and sung songs, but in both modes, Sonne likes playing switcheroo games with synthetic and acoustic timbres — real viola here, fake string section there and so on. As for her lyrics, they continuously tap into the strangeness of the everyday. “Look up at the sky,” she sings on “Staying Here,” her words echoing off some unknowable surface. “Everything is unreal, but I’m not going anywhere.”

This, along with nearly every other moment on “Great Doubt,” seems to be pointing back to “Do You Wanna.” Life is weird. And we’re stuck in it. Which makes the act of summoning new human beings into our company — from the cosmos; from your bloodline; from wherever you think babies come from — really weird. In the song’s second half, Sonne poses a follow-up question that doesn’t raise the stakes so much as clarify and expand them: “Do you wanna bring people into this world?” Then she repeats the word “people” in a melody that rises then droops, communicating an optimism weighed down by hard truth.

Sharp. Witty. Thoughtful. Sign up for the Style Memo newsletter.

Not kids. People. She’s thinking about the ramifications of baby-making in time scales longer than childhood and parameters broader than family. Why does a question so sensible, so altruistic, feel so strange? And why is life’s strangeness the very thing that so often makes it feel the most real? Sonne’s sobering final answer applies to all of these questions: “I really don’t know.”


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button