The 7 Sadnesses of Lucy Dacus’ “Night Shift”
Put simply, “Night Shift” by Lucy Dacus is an absolutely gorgeous, perfectly constructed, and immensely depressing song. Like, the unflattering reflection possible of your worst self at the worst possible time type of depressing. Give it a listen and read about why it’s so good at being sad!
Oh Dang It’s Post-Breakup
Now your garden variety breakup tune might feature some kind of battle, a locking of the horns, a final word, if you will. But this song here employs the underutilized “getting coffee after the breakup for very vague reasons” phase of the process. Potentially the worst part!
By positioning this in the oft-overlooked some-time-later moment, our narrator has a fresh new take on putting a musical pit in my stomach.
”Walk for hours in the dark, feelin’ all hell”
There’s no sadder mode of locomotion than walking. Running? You’re getting exercise! Crawling? You’re a baby! But that aimless, endless stroll long after dark reeks of the hope that when you get home, suddenly it’ll all be different. That it’ll all be better (it won’t). Anyway, five stars great economy of language.
With Dacus starting solo, the band’s assured-but-careful entry is followed by the overdrive that kicks in halfway through, mirroring the emotional arc of an increasingly worked-up conversation you have with someone else in your own head. It’s absolutely deafening by the end, and you have no idea how you got there.
Another devestating insight into the world of being blue is that the worst kind of sadness is angry sadness. You’re defiant enough to fight and defeated enough to cry. Once again, our protagonist nails the vibe throughout.
Too many other songs are about a heartbreak so pure and so true that the love seems stronger than ever. Fuck off with that! Give me the real stuff! Emotional confusion! Pathos! Your own Netflix account!
This is the key sonic element that takes us through the journey. It starts out muted and clean. Cutting but careful. Just enough melody to shine. Hesitant enough to wait.
Then, as the self-righteous fury builds, so does the strumming. Harder, stronger. More assertive. By the time we’ve reached the mountaintop, it’s percussive. Relentless. As the landscape fuzzes and blurs, the shrieking downstrokes continue to rain down, a roaring catharsis loaded with the innate understanding that the pain of grief is followed by a somehow-deeper emptiness. Great for rainy days!
After some time listening to Lucy Dacus, I can confirm that she has an authentically dejected tone to her singing voice. It’s compelling as heck, and though I make no claim that she is an actually sad person, I would hire her to tell my family I didn’t make it (dirtbike accident). You don’t want whoever is delivering that news to sound happy.
The Chorus (Ooof)
Halfway through our journey, we’re listening to a sad song. Expertly crafted and touchingly delivered, but a sad song nonetheless. Then, the skies open up. The band kicks into full gear and a wall of static envelopes your mind as Dacus hits us with this truth-dagger:
You got a nine to five, so I’ll take the night shift
And I’ll never see you again if I can help it
Ahhh, the visceral desire to avoid another person at all costs. A worthy mantra while you walk 6 miles from home at 10pm for no discernible reason. Also, maybe the narrator and their old flame work in a hospital together! I can’t tell if making this a workplace drama is sadder. *thinks*
Yep, it is. Meanwhile, the other half of our very-haunting chorus goes:
In five years I hope the songs feel like covers
Dedicated to new lovers
This couplet appears to be a sort of tomahawk missile designed to bum me out. It’s a pure distillation of the basic urge, in the midst of emotional wreckage, to disassociate yourself from the person you were.
It’s an escape, certainly, but the narrator acknowledges a clear truth: whatever person you intend to become will always be a version of the one that came before. And, more importantly, that the only thing to hope for is a repeat of the process that brought you here in the first place.
Anyway I’m gonna go lie down for awhile. Good times!