Ode to Joy: Natalie Prass’ “Short Court Style”

Album art for Natalie Prass' The Future and the Past

The world is on fire.

Or so the relentless news cycle would have us believe. Every hour comes with a litany of scandals, disappointments, and threats to life as we know it. All of us, the headlines scream, are doomed to wail, gnash our teeth, and scrabble at the edge of sanity with the tips of our fingers. With thousands of concurrent dumpster fires, pushing back is imperative—sometimes to the point that stopping for a breather seems irresponsible, if not unforgivable.

But burning ourselves out by refusing any respite from the punishing frontlines of resistance would be a different kind of defeat.

Or so Natalie Prass says. The singer-songwriter scrapped her original plans for her second album after the 2016 elections, opting instead to craft a direct response to what she called the election’s “devastating” results. In Paste Music, she elaborates on her decision:

It [the 2016 election results] made me question what it means to be a woman in America, whether any of the things I thought were getting better were actually improving, who I am and what I believe in. I knew I would be so upset with myself if I didn’t take the opportunity to say some of the things that meant so much to me, so I decided to rewrite the record. I needed to make an album that was going to get me out of my funk, one that would hopefully lift people out of theirs, too, because that’s what music’s all about.

The resulting album’s first cut, “Short Court Style,” is the kind of track that you can imagine drifting in through your window with the soft afternoon sun. Prass layers rich, hushed vocals over equally lush synths and jaunty guitars, somehow capturing that slow warmth that settles in your belly with the first long draught of your late-day mug of weekend tea. The sampled whoops and sharp drumming inject just enough upbeat kick to get your legs swinging under the dining table. It’s joyful and celebratory, but not in the boisterous, bordering-on-hysteric way that doomsday parties tend to be.

Embedded in the track is an assertion at once simple and powerful: In a world where every minute dares us to succumb to bitterness and rage, welcoming happiness—and taking the chance to relish it and dance (awkwardly) along—can be another form of defiance.

Natalie Prass dissects “Short Court Style” in another excellent episode of the Song Exploder podcast. If you’d like to know what the Bee Gees and “Le Freak” have to do with the track, or whose lightbulb moment gave us the song’s standout “whoops,” be sure to give that interview a listen.