“from the perspective of a man”

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Welcome to Is That Fruity? a column by Zelda and Sarah where we analyze music and pop culture through a queer lens.

The good ol’ fashioned song-written-by-a-woman-from-the-perspective-of-a-man. A mouthful, but a familiar queer-coded phenomenon in music. Think Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” or Taylor Swift’s “Betty.” For decades, deprived of explicitly queer music, we have looked to these songs for subtle tinges of the representation we so crave. 

A more recent addition to this list is “Angelina” by up-and-coming indie pop singer-songwriter Lizzy McAlpine. The ballad reminisces on a failed romance and clings to what could have been. With delicate strings and a simple melody, the song plays much like a lullaby—soothing the broken heart to rest. McAlpine shared in a TikTok that she wrote the song from her ex-boyfriend’s perspective, but its underpinnings of a female voice longing for an impossible relationship with a woman remain inextricably connected to the WLW experience.

The song begins with two earnest questions, driven by a yearning for closure: “Where did you go, Angelina? Why did you take my foolish heart?” McAlpine struggles to grapple with this sudden loss and doubts her lover’s intent in tempting an unrequited love. This heartache characterizes a struggle we can all relate to in the aftermath of an emotionally-charged whirlwind romance. With more conviction, she digresses: “I should’ve known, Angelina / I was never right for that part.” Heteronormative relationship roles permeate the social fabric of romance so deeply that, as queer women, we feel imposter syndrome when trying to fulfill these arbitrary expectations; we feel that we can never be “right for that part.” 

The lyric “And she said I love you so I said it back / But I wished she was you” reminds listeners of the impact of first love and a continuous desire for that person. This impossible love and longing for reconciliation are all too familiar for queer women who develop feelings that are doomed from the start because of heteronormativity. McAlpine exemplifies this ongoing pining with “I think you should know, Angelina / That I’d probably fall again if you wanted me to.” The song’s narrator seems to genuinely believe in the possibility of this love’s endurance, and many of the lyrics reflect a reeling sensation at the understanding that relationships don’t always work out due to external factors. 

The narrator realizes her first love was cut off right as it reached its peak: “I never loved you more than when you walked away.” This lyric implies a one-sided relationship, in which the narrator’s feelings were spiraling upward just as their partner decided to leave. Eventually, McAlpine’s lyrics reach a tone of resignation (“I’m done trying to hold on to you”) as the narrator comes to terms with this collapse.

Although McAlpine was the heartbreaker who inspired her own song, in inhabiting the mindset of the opposite gender, she opens a channel through which queer women can readily map their personal experiences with relationships fated to fail. As such, “Angelina” enters the coveted canon of songs-written-by-a-woman-from-the-perspective-of-a-man for generations of WLW to latch onto and hold dear.

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