“Why So Serious?” The 2012 Mixtape – MGMT’s “Time to Pretend”


Length: 4:10
Originally released on: Oracular Spectacular (digital release October 2, 2007; physical release January 22, 2008)
Samples: Corey Delaney Party Liaison

I’m feeling rough, I’m feeling raw, I’m in the prime of my life…

Irony is hard.

One of the most difficult aspects of living in the 21st century is going to be figuring out when people are serious and when they’re being facetious. I know that I, for one, am culpable in creating this awkward world, but even I can sometimes get taken off-guard and mistake irony for sincerity.

Take, for example, “Time to Pretend,” from MGMT’s debut record. Though it’s hardly the most original song in the world, its distortion-filled shoegazing pop is instantly endearing and worthy of your best indie-dance living room wobble. But man oh man, did I ever get tripped up over the lyric.

The song’s first verse is self-indulgent wish fulfillment, fantasizing about coke, heroin and models for wives; having fun, living fast, dying young. I didn’t hear the song until the band had broken huge, so the passage always struck me the wrong way. It felt as it could really be the band’s mantra – the ridiculous, mushroom-binge outfits on their album cover certainly didn’t help matters.

Then comes verse two, which is this incredibly stupid fantasy about childhood, recollecting about playing with the dog, missing the family, and more. It feels like an idiot’s version of childhood, without a hint of subtlety or reality. This offended me even more – was I really supposed to buy into this?

It wasn’t until months later that I finally clued in: these two fantasies are SUPPOSED to be ridiculous. What seemed like a celebration of these idiocies transformed into a send-up of them, pairing them together and amplifying their absurdity against one another. That awareness gives a sadness to the song that I didn’t expect to find. Its protagonists can’t find anything remotely tangible and real in their present lives, and dream of a stupid future and an idealized past. In their misguided sense of fate, they stay stuck in between, dancing all the while.

It’s that sense of joy and sadness that led me to add Australian party icon Corey Worthington to the track, whose TV appearance became a viral sensation earlier this year. It seemed…appropriate, somehow.

Download: MGMT – “Time to Pretend” (Famous Sunglasses Edition)


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