Dean Lewis’s latest single ‘Looks Like Me’, is just the musical antidote the world needs right now: a pulsating, up-tempo opus about breaking free from a confining, crushing situation.
“My favourite thing about this song is that every time I play it to someone – they immediately start moving their body. I wanted to reach for something completely new and different with this track – but somehow still sound like me”.
It stirs to life with Lewis’s compelling, almost haunting vocalisations – like a siren call, uplifted by a beating acoustic guitar. As the lyrics kick in, so does a rapid-fire hand clap, adding a percussive layer you almost feel more than hear.
Curiously, it’s 30 seconds in that we hear the title lyrics “looks like me’, for the first and last time. Three simple words that, for Lewis, most embody the agonizing push-and-pull of an elusive relationship that created maximum sparks, without ever fully igniting.
“We were on the phone one night while living in different cities, and I was still hoping this could turn into a real relationship. Then she told me she was hanging out with a guy who looks like me. I thought – ‘you’d rather be with someone who looks like me than actual me’. There’s probably nothing more toxic than that”!
Lewis was keen to metamorphize that toxicity into something musically elevating:
“I still wanted an undercurrent of possibility running through the track. That’s basically my ammo – holding on to false hope for waaaay too long”; he says, looking back with a sense of humor and self-deprecation.
The rolling, almost rap-like rhythm of the pre-chorus releases into a thumping, Latin- infused, head bopping chorus. It all builds to the climatic line – “But maybe I’m just not good enough at all to feel your love” – an utterly anthemic moment on the track, both sonically and lyrically.
You can already feel the moment exploding in the live arena: thousands of fans on their feet, arms waving recklessly in the air – unified in that universal feeling of pent-up frustration– and (hopefully), post lockdown freedom!
“My whole approach with this song was to let the rhythm and the groove really drive the track forward – to keep building and building – but without me pushing my vocals up like I usually do”.
That said, in a stroke of highly effective production trickery – Lewis did sing the chorus of ‘Looks Like Me’ a full octave higher and stacked it behind his much lower main vocal line. “It just adds that tinge of something delicate and naïve to the chorus which I wanted to be really catchy and sexy”.
Arguably the most fragile moment on the track comes courtesy of the bridge. As the thunderous second chorus slams to a halt, the production suddenly muted, Lewis deftly embodies both her sweet manipulation – “Hey I just want to hear you voice” – and his own injured confusion – “I said Hey, you know that this was your choice”.
“That bit is just the perfect encapsulation of the cycle we were in for over a year. We’d get close and be just about there – and then she would sort of pull back a little bit. So I’d step back a bit, and then she’d call out of the blue and pull me back in again”.
The exasperation goes nuclear in the final 30 seconds of the track, as the throbbing, percussive production ramps up to meet the force of those closing declarations of “feel your love”; the vocals pivoting from siren call to war cry. Is the artist finally exorcising those last remaining morsels of hope and moving on?
One thing is for sure, the sooner we’re all dancing our way out of lockdown to Dean Lewis’s compulsive new single – the sooner we can all move on.