When I listened to Haim's single, "Want You Back," I momentarily wondered if I was somehow hearing a long-lost Wilson Phillips B-side instead. And just as that early '90s group was comprised of two sisters and a cousin, Haim is also a family affair.
The three Haim sisters—Danielle, Esta and Alana—hail from Southern California. Their pop-rock, radio-friendly style sounds like a retro throwback to the '70s and '80s, a melodic style that regularly earns the group comparisons with Fleetwood Mac, Don Henley, Tom Petty and, yes, Wilson Phillips.
On the band's latest effort "Want You Back," (the first single from Haim's forthcoming sophomore album Something to Tell), we hear the regretful second thoughts of a young woman who's wondering if her choice to shove an earnest guy out of her life was a mistake.
Out of Sync
It's a wonder any two people ever get together, if pop music is an even remotely accurate indicator of how hard that feat is. In "Want You Back," two people can't quite seem to get on the same emotional page.
At first the guy's the eager one, while she's having a hard time committing wholeheartedly. "We were on one endless road/But I had a wandering heart," lead singer Danielle Haim confesses early on. He wanted to try harder to make things work ("Said you'd always see it through"), but her wayward impulse torpedoed things ("And I know that I ran you down/So you ran away with your heart").
And now? Well, now she seems to have come down with a full-blown case of "don't know what you've got 'til it's gone" syndrome.
Cue the renewed interested: "But just know that I want you back."
Cue the mea culpa: "I'll take the fall and the fault in us."
Cue the promises that this time around, things will be different: "I'll give you all the love I never gave before I left you."
But if those predictable responses sound like the standard-issue pleas of a fickle romantic narcissist, the second verse goes a bit deeper when it comes to assessing why this young woman couldn't quite commit.
"I had a fear of forgiveness," she admits. And she humbly realizes that humility is pretty hard for her: "I was too proud to say that I was wrong." Kudos for her willingness (albeit tardily) to take responsibility for what happened.
A swirling constellation of anxieties—about commitment, failure and forgiveness—led this young woman to her to close off her heart. But now it's open again, she insists, and she's begging, begging for another go. "Just know that I want you back/Just know that I want you." How much is she begging, you ask? Well, we hear the phrase "I want you back" some 16 times.
In the end, what Haim's song models for young fans is the reality that we all make mistakes, and that it's OK to humbly make amends and ask for a second chance. As lessons go in pop songs, that's not a bad one at all (even though ironing out that fickle narcissism will likely take longer than a four-minute pop song).