The piano that we hear at the onset of Vân Scott’s “Tough Love” isn’t riddled with bombast and pomp. It isn’t sweltering or so overcome with a synthy overdrive that we can’t discern its keys from the electronic backdrop it has been placed in front of. In “Tough Love,” its role is far more sophisticated than what the average pop song would require; here, Scott will call upon its opening salvo of melodies to tell us a story without ever uttering a single word. That story will soon occupy our collective consciousness with an emotionality that has become all too uncommon in American pop lately, and whether it’s conveyed through the heroic instrumental harmonies that we find at the start of the track or the velvet-voiced crooning of our star, it always finds a way to touch us where it counts the most.
Vân Scott stays clear of understated surrealism in “Tough Love,” which has played a critical part in formulating the basis for mainstream pop/rock in 2019. From what I gather, he’s doing whatever it takes here (including stepping outside of his comfort zone) to avoid any media-conceived tethering of his sound and the minimalist pop movement that has been taking the country by storm this summer. He doesn’t have any interest in being a part of some larger commercial conglomerate at this juncture of his creative journey; contrarily, because Scott has already spent plenty of time in the spotlight, he’s putting all of his energy into the substance of his songwriting in this single.
If this man’s voice is as affectionate and golden-toned in a live setting as it is in-studio, then seeing him on stage is going to be one of my top priorities in the next year. He doesn’t just belt out the verses in “Tough Love” – he makes a statement about just how invested he is in his music by the very means in which he assaults us with the chorus. The tense environment that the bass and drum tracks try to conjure up ahead of the song’s finish never stands a chance against his opulently optimistic attitude, and in a year that has been mostly devoid of any positive charismatic narratives in or outside of pop music, it makes this number even more of a treasure than it would have been otherwise.
Whether you’re a longtime fan or a first time listener, Vân Scott’s latest work is a good pick for anyone who loves easy-going pop with a vital emotive bend that goes against everything the major label mundane have pointlessly tried to establish in the genre throughout the 2010s. September is shaking out to be a really fun month for indie artists across the musical spectrum, and if Scott manages to find an audience, but more importantly, steady rotation for “Tough Love” by the time that we’re into October, I don’t think that it would be too much of a stretch to assume that he’s going to attract some mainstream accolades in the next year or so. He’s worked hard for this attention, and he shows that he deserves every ounce of it in this song.
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