High School Revisited: Tegan and Sara’s “Hey, I’m Just Like You”
by Annie Wojnarowski
Already known to be extremely personal, the Quin sisters dig deeper into a level of angst and vulnerability with their newest record, Hey, I’m Just Like You; so much so that it seems like the sisters have transported back to their teenage selves. Well, they kinda did.
In their ninth studio album, Tegan and Sara dusted off songs they recorded when they were in high school and made them into something new. In the sister duo’s first song off the record, “Hold My Breath Until I Die,” they leave no stone unturned. An uncensored and uninhibited piece of work, it perfectly encapsulates the feeling of wanting to dissipate into a puddle when you realize you should’ve said anything to someone, but didn’t. Their voices, now mature, are juxtaposed with words that are explicitly written by someone still going through puberty: “Oh, If I hold my breath until I die, I’ll be alright.” It seems so melodramatic, but they convince us that that’s the only other option besides confessing one’s love. A loud anthem of words unsaid, it’s the perfect set up to an album that is as much a time capsule of emotion as it is a relevant look into how thoughts about the future have manifested into Tegan and Sara’s present.
“I’ll Be Back Someday,” their first single off the album, is a celebration of youth, rebellion, and a sense of something new beginning. With upbeat drums and loud guitar, it’s a song about getting away and leaving people behind, but saying that they don’t want it to be like that forever: “To the end my friend,” oh, what a lie / Oh, what a lie / If I could pretend, if I could lie / If I could lie / But I can’t stay / No, I can’t stay.” This is a self-confession in which they’re truthful about what they want. Screaming over loud guitar as opposed to a whisper, they’re telling the world what they really want from it.
Two slower songs that read like diary entries, “Hello, I’m Right Here” and “Please Help Me,” both access the angst-ridden feelings that a teenager would be too scared to ever say in front of someone. While “Hello, I’m Right Here” is a standout that matches its vulnerable lyrics with a melodic string section that brings the listener to its knees, “Please Help Me” feels like an afterthought. It comes with good intentions, but its acoustic sound doesn’t seem to match the rest of the album’s engulfing, emotional instrumentation.
The biggest gift that this album brings is a song called “I Don’t Owe You Anything.” It’s quiet beginning, with a single guitar, closely picks up into a symphony by the first chorus. Tegan and Sara build-up to the chorus, hauntingly hopeless and about a relationship that seems to be falling apart: “cause I don't have anything left / and I can't have faith in you anymore.” It’s mourning a relationship that they know can never be, no matter how much they truly want it: “It's the way I love you / It's why I hate you / But I don't owe you / No, I don't owe you anything.”
“I Don’t Owe You Anything” may be the best song off the album, but “I Know I’m Not the Only One” is the most impactful. A pop confessional, reminiscent of their early work, the chorus pushes an early 2000s narrative about high school; it’s a nostalgic treat that takes us back to the memory lane of the Quin sisters while also forcing us to think about the present. With lines such as, “I wonder if someday, we'll just be a memory,” they don’t have to think about that just yet; Tegan and Sara still seem as relevant and reinventive as ever.