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‘You Need Me Now?’ Single Review: A Duality of Composition That Verges on the Unexceptional

3.5 Stars

"You Need Me Now?" by girl in red and featuring Sabrina Carpenter was released on March 22.
"You Need Me Now?" by girl in red and featuring Sabrina Carpenter was released on March 22. By Courtesy of girl in red / Columbia Records
By Thomas A. Ferro, Crimson Staff Writer

Daring and carefully balanced, “You Need Me Now?” — girl in red and Sabrina Carpenter’s new collaboration — is a fruitful composition of evocative give-and-take lyrics and playfully mesmerizing guitar melodies, though it doesn’t reach the level of perfection needed for immortalization in the rapidly changing music industry.

Dropped on March 22 as a part of girl in red’s upcoming album, “I’M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!” — to be released on April 12 — this song marks a new chapter for the musical and artistic expression of both artists, who have typically stuck to slower, subtler, and less rock-heavy tones — as heard in girl in red’s “we fell in love in october” and Carpenter’s “Nonsense.”

Not to say that “You Need Me Now?” is bad, by any means — the lyrics respond well to the melody and contribute to a duet between voice and strings. A slightly undulating rhythm gives the song a party-ready quality — its repetition bolsters its status as a dance song. There’s also complexity in its composure — a sense of darkness and seriousness — especially as girl in red opens the song with “I wanna say all bad things end / But right now I’m not convinced.”

This juxtaposition of both gravity and vibrancy gives the song a peculiar aura, allowing listeners to connect with the lyrics but also enjoy the upbeat melody and chorus. In fact, the dual effect of the song gives it a fantastical essence that inspires a level of relatability often lost in party music.

The majority of the lyrics are sung by girl in red, and Carpenter only joins in at the end, when girl in red says, “You know what would be really fucking cool on this? Sabrina” — to which Carpenter responds: “Oh my god, you’re so right / I’m gonna sing now.”

Carpenter’s comedic entrance into the song works — it’s well-timed, doesn’t break up the progression, and doesn’t impose any tension or awkwardness. “You Need Me Now?” retains a sense of cohesion in its construction despite a collaboration between two such prominent artists possibly suggesting a more balanced and equally distributed duet.

Carpenter, while maintaining girl in red’s overarching tone, adds a new dimension to the suaveness of the song. The lyrics maintain the theme of rejecting the advances of a terrible ex and reflecting on a bad relationship, though Carpenter makes them her own, singing “I’m never beggin’ for love again, baby / Not beggin’ for yours, yours, yours.” These lyrics, while returning to the message of the song, also drive it further — giving the bridge a sense of urgency and strength that was missing in girl in red’s earlier contribution.

The song’s repeating up-and-down tempo and engaging listening experience ensures it a comfortable position on the musical roster in the coming weeks — if not months. But all things considered, “You Need Me Now?” does not cross the line into the immortal fandom that some other songs have achieved — like Olivia Rodrigo and Hozier have done quite recently with their releases of “obsessed” and “Too Sweet,” respectively. These songs draw people back again and again with their almost familiar melodies that make one think they must have heard the song before — something that girl in red and Carpenter did not achieve with this release.

When “You Need Me Now?” pops up on a music streaming service, listeners won’t skip ahead to the next song, but, when it’s over, they won’t play it again.

—Staff writer Thomas A. Ferro can be reached at thomas.ferro@thecrimson.com.

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