“Special,” the first single from the upcoming Body Games LP, Damager, begins with a scene, cut perhaps from some dimly lit nightclub. With her clarion, gently plaintive voice curling around the rhythm, Kate Thompson details the moment—a former lover spotted across the room, all those old feelings dredged up in an instant, her “mind twisted in your faith” by the encounter. It sounds like a scenario best left alone.
But as these things tend to do, the night progresses in a cloud of booze and beats, a cocktail of indiscretion. Two people go back to an apartment, and at least one flees the scene with a broken heart and/or mind. Here, Thompson hands the microphone to Dax Beaton, who croons the simple chorus with nuanced yearning.
And this is the moment where the song slides into the unexpected and thrilling, with a pitch-shifted Beach Boys sample—“God only knows what I’d be without you”—setting up the despair and devastation that follows. As the rhythm recedes, Body Games interlaces a sobbing, difficult text message, ostensibly from the narrator, with the lines of Thompson, more on edge now than ever before. It’s a brilliant but brutal moment, swiping away Body Games’ general veneer of cool for raw nerves and feelings. The song’s great tension, then, is that this moment is very hard to hear, like you’re lurking in a room where you don’t belong, but that this song has been on repeat since Body Games released it yesterday. It’s a staged car crash, a private tragedy made public for voyeurs.
Given the song’s utter vulnerability, I think it’s worth noting that, though a real moment and voicemail prompted “Special,” Beaton didn’t exploit it for the song. The sound comes, instead, from an online data dump of anonymous, downloadable voicemails. That information eases my nerves at least a little bit every time I encounter the sample, providing a disconnect between the sources and myself. “Special” perfectly poses questions of what’s too personal, off-limits, and why—and makes you nod along, all the while.
Body Games will release Damager in April.