Johnnie Mikel’s “I Hope It Hurts”

Music

There are a lot of different ways you can write a love song, but sometimes the most meaningful ballads are those that come at a slightly greater pace, presented with a brooding balance of humility and optimism. Beneath all of its polish, Johnnie Mikel’s “I Hope It Hurts” is one of these compositions, and it fires off like a missile immediately upon starting to explore the complete works this singer/songwriter has released. “I Hope It Hurts” follows “Revolution” as the latest single from this player’s camp, and as always, there’s nothing secondary about the melodic thrills it offers listeners.

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Mikel offers us a lot of luster in the lead vocal here, and I would argue that this song is probably the most singer-driven of any he has recorded in recent memory. There’s so much magic drawn off of the soft voice leading the way through a shadowy, groove-heavy backdrop that it’s occasionally hard to pay any attention to the instrumental chaos taking place just beneath the groundwork the lyrics forge, but I do think this was an intended result nonetheless. Everything in this single is too deliberate to be anything other than precisely what it was conceived to be, and as much is obvious no matter how many times you’ve heard it.

The mix is a little dry in comparison to what a lot of other acts might have gone with, but I believe this to be wholly essential if the goal was to employ textural expressiveness in “I Hope It Hurts.” There are few pop songs I’ve heard this year to sound and feel as multifaceted as this one does, but there’s a lot of hesitation on my part to call it a straight-up concept piece. It’s short and sweet like a conventional pop track, yet more progressive than anything else to have caught my attention this October.

I’d normally like a little less from the percussion and a little more from the bassline in a song like this one, though I can also understand why Johnnie Mikel would want something else for this release. If one thing is to be counted upon with this material, it’s that we aren’t going to hear someone else’s formula manipulated to fit the mold of what this act would record independently, and while this isn’t the status quo for most of the pseudo-alternative players I’ve run into in 2022, originality is clearly at the core of this project in every way.

Johnnie Mikel proves to be curiously inventive once more in “I Hope It Hurts,” and of all the impeccably inspired tunes it’s included with in this man’s discography, this is easily my favorite of the bunch. “I Hope It Hurts” wants to be post-punk so badly that it winds up becoming one of the dreamier hard pop singles you’re likely to hear all autumn long, and whether its aesthetical whims are something you typically look for in music or not, I’ve got a good feeling you’re going to find them as charming and unique as I did.

Claire Uebelacker

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