Song of the Week: “Play, Pretend” (Project Orange)

★★★½ of 5

Album art for Project Orange’s new single, “Play, Pretend” (Image courtesy of Lilystar Records)

“Let’s slow dance, disguised as friends — like I have a chance.
Take my hand, pull the other end; let’s see what happens then.”

From the moment we hear these first lines off Project Orange’s new song, “Play, Pretend”; we know right away that we’re in for a whirlwind of emotions.

With last year’s “Ctrl + Esc,” Project Orange introduced us to the euphoria of stealing away into the night, escaping somewhere only two people know. The four-piece indie pop band wasted no time to give us a funky ditty that encapsulates the feeling of excitement as one embarks on a trip that promises a million and one possibilities.

“Play, Pretend” wipes those smirks off our faces and douses them with ice-cold water for a reality check.

Under any other circumstances, it’s easy to pigeonhole “Play, Pretend” as an example of conscious defeatism in pop songs. In fact, as if opening the song with the lines mentioned above wasn’t enough, the “Play, Pretend” resolves to hold on to that thin fabric of ‘maybe’ — a world of uncertainties made worthy by a glimmer of hope.

But as we listen more closely, there’s something refreshing about the honesty — innocence, in fact — of the song’s lyrics content; so much so that it gives its listeners a perfect juxtaposition between the music and its lyrics. What Diana, Martin, Miguel, and Tin do here is the exact opposite of their previous songs: “Ctrl + Esc” and “Sputnik Sweetheart” are unbridled excitement incarnate and tempered panic underscored by uncontainable longing, respectively.

“Play, Pretend” goes the measured route instead.

Yes, the butterflies still remain, but this time they’re out of appreciation of making the best out of borrowed time. By the time the music ends, we get a sense that the protagonist has moved past that ‘unrequited affection’ phase. Whether the feelings are reciprocated has become immaterial; it is the ‘now’ that matters most.

Project Orange’s latest song is as enjoyable as it is painful, a slap in the face that jolts its listeners awake back to reality. Whether driving home from a tiring workday, drowning your sorrows over alcohol on a listless night, or somewhere in between; “Play, Pretend” is a homebound-road-trip indie pop tune to listen to, an I-know-what-you-feel music to keep you company — and sane.

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Paul Enicola

Film (and sometimes music) critic. Writer by profession, musician by passion.