Lights Out — Ingrid Michaelson’s fifth studio album, which was released last week — opens with the song “Home.” It’s a theme that reverberates throughout a majority of the songs on the album, though the indie-pop singer-songwriter says it’s not something she was working with intentionally.
“This album came out of a lot of sadness,” she explains, “and I think that the idea of home is sort of this comfort ... this solace and this peace and familiarity that exists.” It’s a concept that even appears in the song that’s getting the most attention from Lights Out, “Girls Chase Boys,” although it’s not the reason for the attention. The 34-year-old New Yorker says she penned “Girls Chase Boys” with Trent Dabbs (of Storyman) and Nashville writer Barry Dean originally as a break-up song, but the demo didn’t sit right.
“I felt like just saying, ‘Girls chase boys chase girls’ was very sort of hetero-exclusive, and so I thought of a new tagline, a ‘Girls chase girls chase boys chase boys’ kind of thing, opening it up to more people than just heterosexuals,” she says. “I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, but... I grew up in a household where those things weren’t a big deal.”
She also didn’t think making the “Girls Chase Boys” video as an homage to Robert Palmer’s 1988 “Simply Irresistible” was a big deal. Michaelson would play her song over his muted video, and laugh. “The dance moves were so funny, and I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I was the one singing? And instead of all women in the back, they were all men?”
Her video director agreed, and decided to take it even a step further, setting up frames so the lines are blurred so much that it’s not obvious whether the viewer is looking at a woman or a man dancing behind Michaelson. Each, as she says, is “equally made up and equally quote-unquote beautiful.”
“The song says it’s all the same thing. The idea that we’re all looking for love. We’re all looking for happiness. It doesn’t matter who or what or how you love.” While some people have understood what Michaelson was trying to do, she says others very clearly haven’t. Even though the video states in its opening that it’s an homage, a lot of people thought she was taking a stab at sexism.
“I don’t think [Palmer’s] video was sexist,” she says, adding, “That video seems very self-aware of what it’s doing, and to me it’s amusing, and I think really smart. And I didn’t feel like it was objectifying women, as much as it was objectifying the idea of objectifying women.”
That’s not the only controversy her video has generated.
“A lot of homophobic people say that they really hate the whole thing,” Michaelson says. “It’s like, whoa, geez. I am excited to be a part of that conversation, though, to be on the side that I’m on.”
Until the comments get ugly. But she’s got an answer for that, too, at least when it comes to social media: the delete button.
“I feel like the video speaks for itself. But I can’t help but write back to some of the really dumbass people. I leave the ones that embarrass themselves up. And I try to monitor the really evil ones, so if there’s a 10-year-old reading the comments, you know, I don’t want some of those things shown.”