Review: Haim – Women In Music Pt. III

haim wimpiii

This review originally appeared in the July 3rd, 2020 issue of the Voice Piece newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Do You Understand, You Don't Understand Me?

When HAIM announced the title of their new album, Women in Music Pt. III, I was a little taken aback- I’d curated a list (that included HAIM!) for a few years that I initially called “Women in Music,” that was a master list of every woman who released an album that year. If you’re familiar, then you’ll know that I stopped making the lists, as I started to have a bit of an existential crisis about it- were these lists resulting in just more of the tokenization that we’re all fighting? The name of WIMPII is, in fact, a tongue-in-cheek reference to that concept. We need to fight to be recognized and then fight again to not only be associated with our identity as women, or whoever we happen to be that’s not a straight white man. The Haim sisters stepped away for a few moments from their 70s-style lovelorn rock to address just that – and wrote their best album to date.

I should say that HAIM’s 70s-style lovelorn rock is not a bad thing, it’s just what we expect. Their entire last album, Something To Tell You, was all about it. Somehow, though, they still take these concepts, and once again with masterful production by the amazing duo of Rostam Batmanji and Ariel Rechtshaid, can elevate these songs to be something different. 

The songwriting is an exploration into a modern woman’s look on loneliness, sex, empowerment, and vulnerability. “The Steps” explores all of this- pleading with a partner, letting them know that they just don’t understand– I am my own person. “FUBT” explores this even further, exposing the abusive elements of a relationship like this.

You beat yourself up and I let you take it out on me
Another day, another hour, no apology
How can I sleep when I can't dream at night?

It’s “Man from the Magazine” that really taps into the album title- a recounting of an incident where Este Haim was asked if the faces she makes on stage while playing bass are the same she makes “in bed.” The unequal treatment women face in this industry is not hard to find – it’s just being asked. Even as a critic or someone knowledgeable of music, it seems like a challenge for men to be able to understand. If you throw the challenge back, you are the bitch, and that’s just how it is.

I don't want to hear
It is what it is, it was what it was
Don't make me hear
It is what it is, it was what it was
You don't know how it feels, you expect me to deal with it
'Til I'm perfectly numb
But you don't know how it feels
You don't know how it feels
You don't know how it feels
To be the cunt

The songs celebrating HAIM’s relationship as sisters are what solidify this album for me, maybe as just someone with a sister, it’s just another thing I can identify with in their songwriting. “Hallelujah” addresses this most directly, with Alana Haim mourning the loss of a close friend by leaning on her familial relationships. “Leaning On You” carries a similar theme but can be translated to anything- friends, relationships, family- the people who just get you, who really understand.

Overall, Women In Music Pt. III is a triumph for HAIM, it takes their songwriting to a new level and leaves so much for the listener to connect with. Instruments, vocals, and production are put together to near-perfection, establishing HAIM as a multi-faceted band able to create much more than what we had ever expected of them in the past. Their emotional transparency will leave you empowered. I think that maybe HAIM has come to a similar realization as I have- declaring yourself to be what you are is not necessarily tokenization as much as it is an achievement. Trying to make yourself and others like you more visible is not easy. HAIM are three Women In Music- it is what it is.

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