It’s long been said that music has the power to manipulate one’s mood. Its lyrical devices stir up feelings of excitement, nostalgia, passion, and jubilance. And that sentiment isn’t more true than when listening to the evocative and romantic songs produced, written, and performed by singer-songwriter Mary Lambert.
Lambert is skilled in providing entertainment through her danceable pop tracks and music videos, like “Know Your Name,” which Refinery29 has the honour of premiering below, but she's capable of doing much more than simply provide the soundtrack for our lives. The 28-year-old is a champion of inclusion both on stage (you may know her from her "Same Love" performance at the 2014 Grammys alongside Macklemore and Ryan Lewis) as well as on her brand new debut independent album, aptly named Bold (released May 5). "Bold is a really encompassing term for what these songs meant," she told Refinery29 over the phone. "Each song has its own story of being 'bold.'"
And "bold" is the perfect way to summarise the memorable and exciting music video for "Know Your Name." Lambert and I agreed to deem it a "nerdy" take on Taylor Swift's girl gang anthem, "Bad Blood," but Lambert's is telling a story of Crush At First Sight, not a girl-on-girl cat fight.
"Know Your Name" is a dance-infused bop and if you're wondering why everyone in the video looks like they're having the best time ever, it's because they are — they're all friends IRL. On the inspiration behind the video, Lambert tells me:
"I was sort of sitting on it and was trying to think of anything — like, what would be the impetus for knowing someone’s name. Often times I feel like those narratives are someone walks into a bar or someone walks into a restaurant. But I go into this arcade bar where I live and have so much fun there and my assistant, Nadia, had this great idea: What if [you've got a crush on] someone who is really into arcade games? And I sorta ran with it. I said we gotta do a stunt squad, and we gotta make it sort of post-apocalyptic. I am kind of nerdy so I wanted light sabers and all this stuff. It got kind of crazy and really fun, and I got more friends involved in it."
In addition to this action-packed love letter to nerd culture ("I am SUCH a fan of nerd culture"), the rest of her album posses a range of tracks, each one drawn from Lambert's personal life. "There are three fun, upbeat pop songs and there are a couple down tempo tracks and two ballads," she said. "I produced half of the EP, so this is sort of me testing the water a little bit for me being a producer." She adds: "These songs were all in my life and I had to figure out how they fit together."
This is her first release as an independent artist without a major label backing her (she was formerly at Capitol Records and says the two simply went through “conscious uncoupling”) and she hopes that the complexity of the album and its lyrics resonate with her listeners and her community. (Lambert is known for her open and emotional lyrics about LGBTQ rights, body positivity, and personal trauma.)
"I hope that there is a sense of empowerment and a joyfulness," she said. "That it is just enjoyable to listen to and that if someone feels compelled to cry, they cry. And if someone feels compelled to dance, they dance. I hope they both cry and dance, and then cry-dance. Those are my two modes actually. Those are all I have."