MUNA is undoubtedly one of my all-time favorite music artists. The group immediately went to the top of my list back in 2017 when they released their best album, in my opinion, to date: About U. As any member of the band or fan base could tell you, enthusiasts have been asking for new music from them ever since. MUNA has even made memes to address the demand for new music. So when they announced their second album Saves the World (2019), everyone was extremely excited, including me. As they began releasing singles, I was instantly reminded of why MUNA’s music has been so important to me.
“Number One Fan” was the first single to come out and was a total bop about self-love that you can dance to. Addressing something difficult in an upbeat pop song creates a space to process pain in a different way. MUNA has captured this feeling before in songs like “I Know a Place” on their debut album. I continued to resonate with the singles the way I’d resonated with songs on About U, and then they released the album.
Saves the World was not what I was expecting; it sounded and felt a little different but I loved it when I first heard it and still love it. I’ve told many of my friends about MUNA and some of them instantly had a clear favorite but I had a hard time comparing the two albums. I’m not usually one to feel neutral on a subject so I made sure to make a decision. And while I love Saves the World (and will have seen them in Arizona by the time this is published), I don’t think there’s much of a contest: About U wins on all fronts.
About U was such a cohesive piece of art, on so many levels. Each song exists on its own and stands strong but tells a story, not only lyrically but musically. The music isn’t just a background for beautifully-crafted lyrics; the music is crafted to push the lyrics and giving them meaning they otherwise wouldn’t have. “Winterbreak,” one of my favorite songs, has some of the best use of lyrics on the album. It’s a perfectly produced song that articulates not just what the speaker is saying but feeling. The clear collaboration and cohesiveness of the songs made for an album that was clearly written about someone else’s lived experience: it felt like maybe it was written about you. The album captures the experience of so many individuals, especially queer folk, who are living right now.
MUNA’s choice to title their second album Saves the World implied that they understood what made About U so special and important. MUNA produces this feeling in every song that is somehow both deeply personal and extremely universal, while simultaneously producing a pop beat that allows you to dance in your car as you think about some painful topics brought up in their songs. However, this album is lacking that feeling of cohesiveness, collaboration, and intimacy. All my favorite songs on Saves the World capture that specific About U appeal but, the other songs aren’t able to help MUNA in their efforts to save the world.
As I read the lyrics and thought about why I was leaning towards About U as my album of preference, I noticed that some of the songs were purely credited to just MUNA and the others were “Katie Gavin” and MUNA. Their first album always sounds like it was written by MUNA together and that’s how it’s credited too. I love Saves the World but I don’t think the album carried the same traits from About U that saved me. The closing song acts as a perfect example of why this album, for me, doesn’t do that.
In regards to their closing songs, Nicole Almeida wrote, “Serving as the perfect ending to the theme of self-reflection and growth that’s scattered throughout Saves the World, album closer, ‘It’s Gonna Be Okay, Baby.’” But this song doesn’t feel like it captures the universal human experience as Katie reveals extremely intimate details of her life in a song (although it is still incredible). This song is Katie’s, along with so many songs on the album. The reason I like every piece of music varies because I can listen to a wide variety of music. But I liked MUNA because I didn’t have to go searching to resonate with what I was listening to. The music sounds like it was meant to exist and those people were the only ones who could have made it and each song needs the other songs on the album. On particular songs on Saves the World, MUNA was able to capture that About U feel I love so much, but I wish I got to see it throughout the album.
MUNA still remains unmatched on what they are able to do. I’m going to be able to have seen them twice on tour and there has never been a doubt in my mind of their accomplishments. That said, this album fell short for me in ways that were avoidable.