• mustbefately

Watermelon Sugar Isn't A Thing.

The way I see it, there are two possibilities.

  1. I'm a complete buffoon. Watermelon sugar has always been a thing, and everyone knows about it but me.

  2. Watermelon sugar wasn't a thing until Harry Styles made it up for a song, and then the song was so good that everybody tacitly agreed to pretend watermelon sugar was a thing.

I think each of these possibilities is equally likely, but I can't write a blog post about #1. So, for the sake of argument, let's assume that #2 is correct. Suppose that Harry Styles sat down to write, and instead of writing anything that made sense, he decided to make up some goofy shit no one's ever heard of.

What would that mean? What does that do for us; what can we learn?

Let's have some anecdotes.

Anecdote 1. I'm 12. My 7th grade teacher starts a songwriting club; I attend the first session. She begins teaching us the basics of writing a song. "Songs are made of chords," she says. "Most songs have three or four. So pick three or four chords and play them over and over, and there's your first song." I'm confused. I don't know what a chord is. "A chord is a bunch of notes played at the same time, like this." She strums her guitar. I'm still confused.

That's not what a song is, I think. A song isn't a sequence of strummings. A song is an idea snatched out of thin air and sewn into sound. Teach me that, why don't you?

I don't go back to songwriting club.

Anecdote 2. I'm 14. My 9th grade English teacher takes points off my poetry assignment because it doesn't make sense. We're reading Shakespeare in class. It doesn't make sense.

Me not making sense = bad.

Shakespeare not making sense = genius.

That doesn't make sense.

"Wow Beverly, are you really comparing yourself to Shakespeare?"

Of course not. I'm comparing myself to Harry Styles. We're the same age, how come he gets to make squillions of dollars singing songs about watermelon sugar, and I have to make so much goddamn sense all the time?

Well for starters, he's got squillions of dollars already, which makes it easier to make more-- marketing teams are a hell of a drug. He could fart in a bag and folks would buy it. But let's set aside such cynical considerations and focus on the artistry. (I can't learn to be rich, but I might learn to make good art someday, so that's where I'm directing my attention.)

How does Harry Styles get away with singing nonsense? Well, he does, and he doesn't. He does write a song about "watermelon sugar," a phrase which, prior to the release of this song, didn't mean anything to anyone*. But the song itself makes it mean something. He makes it make sense. And not in the sense of "if you act confident, you can say any kind of bullshit and no one will call your bluff," although the swagger does sell it. He makes it mean something. He plucked an idea from the air and said "I think I'll name you watermelon sugar," and so it was.

Music consists of stitching meaning into sound. Some composers do without words altogether, others make do with words that already exist. But if you go far enough back, words are all just random noises somebody made up, and so is music.

All of which to say, me and Liz are trying to finish an EP soon. One of the songs is a made-up word. Did we do the thing? Did we succeed in making it mean something? We'd like to think so, but we mustn't assess our own work. It'll be up to you to decide, when you hear it for yourself.

Stay tuned.


*obviously I'm making sweeping generalizations here. Watermelon sugar may not have been a household term until Mr. Styles coined it, but watermelon-flavored sugar has been produced commercially for some time. Mostly available from specialty cocktail purveyors, it's marketed as rimming sugar** to garnish fancy margaritas and suchlike. So I'm sure your friendly neighborhood high-end bartender had heard of it prior to 2019, but most of the rest of us peasants probably hadn't.

**rimming sugar. rimming sugar. Rimming. Sugar. That's it: watermelon sugar is about rimjobs, can't change my mind.

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