Single Review: Father John Misty – Funny Girl
Satire Editor Cleo Gravett reviews the new Father John Misty single, ‘Funny Girl’.
Get yourself to church because music’s favourite melancholic pastor of Americana is BACK, baby!
Father John Misty returns to our ears with ‘Funny Girl’, the first of four singles that will be released in the lead up to his fifth album, Chloë and the Next 20th Century.
The track opens with a drumroll, like one that would anticipate a stage show, and proceeds with cinematic-sounding flourishes in the form of piano strings and orchestral swells, steeping the song in Old Hollywood glamour from its first few bars. It’s a sound that very much suits his lyrics and vocal style, and this spirited opening is almost certainly an ode to Barbra Streisand’s ebullient musical/film of the same name as the single.
this single has a pessimistic tinge, yet he still manages to make it sound utterly charming and a little bit sexy.
Soon enough FJM slips into his signature gentle melodic warble, with ‘plink-plonks’ and fairy-tale flute flourishes reminiscent of Old Hollywood film soundtracks. His classic dreamy melodies are interwoven with disarmingly wry lyrics, referencing talk shows and Tinseltown business jargon, which come together perfectly to poke fun at the Hollywood showbusiness rat-race. We’re treated to the crooning lyric “Baby you’re young, but you’re not getting younger” which provides the minor existential crisis that is as key to an FJM song as a vocal run is to a Timberlake track.
Interestingly, his most-played songs on streaming platforms are from his albums pre-2016, which could be enough to spook some artists into returning to an earlier sound. Not Father John Misty, whose sound has steadily and intentionally drifted from cautiously upbeat ditties to slower ballads. Like most of his music, this single has a pessimistic tinge, yet he still manages to make it sound utterly charming and a little bit sexy.
Truth be told, in ‘Funny Girl’ FJM uses all of his old beats and trademarks without sounding stale: mid-line pauses, organ and keyboard sounds, laments for doomed relationships. The mention of a “five-foot Cleopatra”, must be a nod to Elizabeth Taylor, who, as the dual patron saint of Old Hollywood and turbulent romantic relationships, slots perfectly into FJM’s world.
its strong lyricism could fit neatly into the climax of a concept album story arc.
‘Funny Girl’ is a solid FJM classic with nothing spectacularly new, so if you enjoy his stuff already, you’ll likely enjoy this too. From this single alone (which I know is an ill-fated presumption to build upon), I don’t anticipate the new album to be wildly different from his existing catalogue, but it does have a little cinematic sparkle that could signal something special — I sense a concept album, not least from all of the theatrical hints he’s giving.
Intriguingly, the track list released alongside the album announcement shows that ‘Funny Girl’ sits at 8th place on an 11-track album, which surprised me, because it sounds so much like an opening track. Though equally, its strong lyricism could fit neatly into the climax of a concept album story arc. All in all, with ‘Funny Girl’ Father John Misty sticks to his aura of familiarity, but never predictability.
The fifth Father John Misty album Chloë and the Next 20th Century is out 08/04/2022.