Cut Through The Noise: Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, Lucy Dacus, Aly & Aj


Illustration by Isaac Wert

Modesty Manion

Welcome to “Cut Through the Noise,” an entertainment column from the St. Louis Park Echo covering new music releases. Every week, a different Echo staffer takes on the role of writer, reviewing recent single releases from a variety of artists.


Ed Sheeran (feat. Taylor Swift) — ‘The Joker and the Queen’ ★★★★☆

“The Joker and the Queen” is an emotional ballad about love, acceptance, insecurity and feelings of inadequacy within a relationship. 

Fair use from Stereogum.

Ed Sheeran’s original version of the song, released on his new album “=” (Equals), includes only the male perspective. In this remix, the second verse has new lyrics to incorporate the woman’s perspective sung by Taylor Swift. It’s not surprising that the two artists are working together again, as Sheeran was recently featured on Swift’s “Everything Has Changed” in her re-release of her album “Red. This addition not only adds more depth to the lyrics, but Swift’s vocals and harmonies with Sheeran bring this song to life. Sheeran’s writing sprinkles in metaphors about gambling, creating a deeply symbolic mood. 

The duo’s vocals are beautifully accompanied by piano, acoustic guitar and violin, amplifying the intensely intimate feeling of the song. The acoustic melody envelops the listener in the emotion of the relationship. Those who enjoy powerful music with linguistic complexities would most likely also enjoy this remix.


Lucy Dacus — ‘Kissing Lessons’ ★★★★☆

“Kissing Lessons” by Lucy Dacus is an indie-rock song about having an LGBT+ awakening at a young age. Dacus sings about being childhood friends with a girl named Rachel, and spending their days thinking about their romantic futures. 

Fair use from Stereogum.

Dacus tries convincing herself that she wants a straight relationship, not realizing she is falling in love with Rachel. This song touches on the delegitimization of LGBT+ experiences in youth that many members of the community go through. Dacus also touches on how the idea of dating seems so intriguing when we’re younger. 

The song itself is short and sweet, with a runtime of just under two minutes. The lyrics act more like a story or diary entry than a structured song, with no chorus, verses or bridge. This helps the listener focus on what the lyrics are saying, and multiple listens reveal the full complexity of the song. Heavy electric guitar, electronic sounding drums and Lucy’s effortless vocals make this alternative track sound like a classic. Originally, “Kissing Lessons” was on the track list of Dacus’ 2020 release “Home Video”. If you’re a fan of Dacus’ other work, or of Beach Bunny, Snail Mail or Soccer Mommy, you’ll enjoy this single.


Aly & Aj — ‘Way Way Back’ ★★★★★

Aly & Aj are a pop music/acting duo made up of sisters Aly and Aj Michalka that starred in the Disney show “Phil of the Future” in the early 2000’s. Their music career grew in fame during this time, highlighted by their hit, “Potential Breakup Song.” 

Fair use from Genius.

But their new album, “a touch of the beat gets you up on your feet, gets you out and then into the sun (deluxe edition)” and it’s last track, “Way Way Back,” are far from the power-pop sound the pair got their start with. The song is a mixture of pop, alternative and folk, with shifts between vocals and piano to an upbeat melody in the chorus. The sisters harmonize beautifully and the acoustic guitar gives the song a summery mood. 

The song itself talks about reminiscing on and almost romanticizing the “good old days” of a relationship, conveying a strong feeling of regret, longing and reflection. “Way Way Back” is a fun addition to your summer playlist, and will surely be stuck in your head. I would recommend this song (and album) to fans of Kacey Musgraves, Maggie Rogers and HAIM.