Playing the Fool: Angel Olsen Returns with “Intern”

Cory Lomberg takes a look at the beautiful new track from Angel Olsen.
By    June 8, 2016

Art by Rashid Akrim / NRK P3

Cory Lomberg’s resume is ten pages long.

Angel Olsen sings with the voice in the back of my head—the one that casts constant doubts, regrets living but also regrets staying inside, and seeks out excuses while I fall in love. This capacity dates back to Strange Cacti, Olsen’s 2011 EP released on Bathetic Records. The songs were recorded in her kitchen, free of synths, with lyrics so frank, they sound prophetic. “Someone has got to go on believing / Someone has got to speak of the feeling / Someone has got to let down their guard for someone,” she shrugs on “Drunk and With Dreams.” It’s true, though that action can be either validating or alienating.

“Intern” channels all of the same sentiments. Using her voice as both an instrument and a source of caution, she prods us to question why we do the things we do, why we seek meaning, why we try when we’re bound to fail, then try again after that. “Doesn’t matter who you are or what you do / Something in the world will make a fool of you”—yes, something will. Or Someone. As Olsen analogizes, you might sense it as the intern, clutching a resume and feeling naked though you’re way overdressed. You might also be made a fool by feelings.

In the track’s accompanying video, Olsen dons a wig that mimics her own hairstyle (tiny bangs and all), save for the fact that it’s made of tinsel. For much of the clip, she gazes beyond her surroundings, including an interviewer extending a mic and people mulling through a dressing room. Instead, her stare calls to the camera. She addresses you and your own internal crisis. She offers her undivided attention.

That is, until the final refrain. Olsen’s voice rises to a falsetto as she swears that this is the last time she will fall in love, the last time she will pick up the phone, and the last time she will make this promise. But her eyes change—they lose confidence and break contact. There’s no use in saying “never” or “forever” anymore. If Olsen knows this to be true, she must be a mere mortal like the rest of us. Knowing that makes all the sadness worth it.

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