By Jayleen Rolon
On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the announcement of closure for New Jersey public schools, officially beginning quarantine for those like myself who were still in high school, Indonesian singer-songwriter Stephanie Poetri released her debut EP “AM:PM.”
“AM:PM” comes nearly two years after the success of Poetri’s single “I Love You 3000” that accumulated over 450 million streams. The song gained popularity following the hit film “Avengers Endgame,” which marked the death of beloved hero Iron Man after a decade-long journey. Needless to say, the heartfelt song centered around Iron Man’s final words tugged the heartstrings of fans across all demographics as they reflected on their time with the character.
The EP opens with “Daydreaming,” a gentle song about feeling trapped in a state of depression. This is my favorite song on the EP, as I admire the focus on Poetri’s vocals as she scats through the repetition of “I’m daydreaming, I stay dreaming.” More importantly, the topic of depression is one that is central to the discussion of the pandemic, as millions of people struggle with either new or exacerbated mental illness in response to loss.
Daydreams have a positive connotation as they tend to be a fantastical escape from reality, but Poetri uses the daydream as an inescapable world that makes her long for reality, similar to the way depression makes even the happiest of things dull. She compares this prolonged daydream to an endless winter, which is a perfect analogy for this past year of watching seasons pass without experiencing the passage of time.
“IRL,” an upbeat love song, is for those who have had a quarantine romance where all they long for is time in person. Poetri details her post-pandemic dream of appreciating time with her loved ones whether they are travelling the world or enjoying a calm night in. “Anywhere that you are is where I wanna be,” sings Poetri, vocalizing the desires of all those eager to bridge the distance the pandemic has created.
Continuing the theme of going from morning to night, Poetri captures the debilitating battle with anxiety and depression in “3PM.” Poetri’s routine is in shambles amidst the pandemic, which has her sleeping in until the late afternoon to avoid confronting the day. “Don’t wanna feel sad and just repeat / The times I’ve had feels incomplete,” sings Poetri softly in the chorus, giving a voice to everyone who has struggled with the inability to distinguish between days. This song in particular made me feel validated in my struggle with mental health as I realize that a lot of the difficult emotions associated with quarantine are universal.
In “How We Used To,” Poetri explores feelings of losing trust in a catchy and ambiguous way. To me, this song embodies the growth and clarity that time alone has provided that will continue to change our views of relationships when we return to a new normal. “If things were different I’d be innocent / Cause I would see this to the bitter end / With you, with you,” sings Poetri with a relatable sentiment of newly rejecting toxicity.
“Selfish” sheds some light on the relationship as Poetri describes her jealousy when she sees her lover with another girl at a party. The unlabelled relationship status is mimicked by the way that Poetri plays with audio throughout the song. While “Selfish” doesn’t directly pertain to the pandemic, the loss of control of her feelings expressed in “I don’t want to want you as bad as I want you” is relatable regardless of the current state of the world.
“Paranoia” perfectly describes the late night anxiety that has plagued even the best of us. The music itself builds from a simple guitar instrumental to a loud, produced audio, similar to the feeling of spiraling in anxious thought. “’Cause my mind is goin’ tik-tok, tik-tok / Spendin’ hours in my head, been a minute since I left my bed,” sings Poetri in the chorus alluding to both the sound of time passing and the addictive social media platform TikTok, that has boomed in popularity this past year. From firsthand experience I know that the app is easy to get caught up in late at night, only fueling the anxiety.
“AM:PM” isn’t just a journey from day to night; it is a mental journey that many can and will relate to. Poetri beautifully puts into words anything from the yearning for face-to-face interactions to sleeping through the afternoon to cope with a loss of your normal lifestyle. As we reflect on the past year, it is important to find art we can relate to, and that’s what Poetri has created.