On Shuffle: Discovery’s “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” (ft. Angel Deradoorian)

Posted: by The Editor

Graphic by Madison Van Houten

On Shuffle is a weekly column dictated by a combination of computerized chance and personal history. Every week, I’ll put my iTunes library—which I’ve been cultivating in some form since at least 2007—on shuffle and I’ll write about whatever song comes up first. All of these are songs that I’ve added to my library over the last 15 years, so all of them have a reason for being there. I may or may not remember what that was. To read more about why I’m doing this, check out this intro post.

This week on shuffle: “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” (ft. Angel Deradoorian)

This is a great one to start on—I am pretty confident I have never once heard this song. My Last.fm (which is only partially accurate and is missing a few years of data, but I’m inclined to take its word on this one) says that I have never scrobbled this band before I started writing this column. (Note: “scrobbling,” in case you’re not familliar, is a word that Last.fm uses to mean “play count” or something like that. I cannot be sure why.)

I know the Discovery record was a big deal for some time. I remember seeing the gradient artwork all over the place between the years 2009 and like 2012. I’m pretty sure I never really had an idea of what this might sound like—I do think that I always intended to listen to this record, even before it ended up in my library, just because I thought the artwork was nice and it seemed like something people were talking about. But I never got around to it, although I guess I got kind of close. 

The reason Discovery’s only full-length LP joined my library was related to a kind of music swap that I did with somebody I was dating in college. I usually am not one to talk too much about this kind of stuff, but that is the story. I know that neither of us listened to every record that the other person shared—I do remember that I listened to Gotye’s Making Mirrors for the first time in full as a result of this swap (I remember thinking it was very good, I should dig that one out again soon) and I remember sharing The Format’s Interventions + Lullabies (I don’t think that one was well received really which is fine although it still bangs). LP is one I obviously never got to. I can’t remember which one of us had this idea—it reeks of something an idealistic and vaguely stupid 19-year-old me might dream up, something about how the only way to get to know me is through the music I love blah blah blah, as if I was so complicated—but I do see now that, especially at the time, we had very different tastes and I do think it was kind of fun if not the ultra-important thing I may have thought it was back then.

For some reason this whole thing is very embarrassing to me. Welcome to the column everybody. 

One thing about Discovery—I think I only realized very late, like a few years ago maybe, that Discovery is technically part of the extended Vampire Weekend Cinematic Universe. A duo of former VW member Rostam Batmanglij and Wes Miles of Ra Ra Riot, Discovery was I guess a side project of sorts for both of them. It makes sense that I didn’t end up getting into them when the record came out—I didn’t really like Vampire Weekend until Modern Vampires of the City came out and my only real experience with Ra Ra Riot was the time they opened for The Postal Service during their 2013 reunion run. I am resisting the urge to call Discovery a Postal Service for the late aughts right now so let’s move on. 

Discovery album cover

Very pleasant album art…for some reason I cannot find any other good photo of this band so this is all we have

So “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” is the first Discovery song I’ve ever listened to on purpose. I’m not sure if I ever inadvertently heard any of their songs in a commercial or anything—looking at the Billboard charts, it looks like the record popped in at number 89 and dropped off after that, so maybe the record didn’t have as huge a commercial track record as I thought. 

The song itself is pretty cool! The back and forth between Batmanglij and Angel Deradoorian (formerly of Dirty Projectors) is really nice and their vocal melodies float pleasantly and blissfully over top the kind of busy, more anxious synth pop instrumental. The loudest sound here, a kind of deep buzzing beat, strikes me as really quite antiquated 12 years later, but otherwise I think “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” is a pleasant and mostly inoffensive tune. It doesn’t really have me rushing to listen to the album, but it’s nice and I’m glad to have heard it now. 

Hearing this song out of context, it’s hard to tell whether “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” is one of the marquee tracks to come out of the record or if it’s more of a deep cut. In doing some digging, I’m getting some conflicting signals. Apple Music’s charts have the song at number 9 out of 11 total Discovery tracks. Spotify has it at number 8. A lot of the contemporary reviews bring it up, but the mentions here tend to be kind of neutral or maybe even a little backhanded. Pitchfork’s review refers to Deradoorian’s “melismatic skat thing she does all over ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’” where The New York Times called it “sputtering girl-group pop.”

But James Rettig, in Stereogum’s 10-year anniversary piece, leads with the most insightful analysis of the song that I’ve stumbled upon yet, calling it a “beacon of queer desire” and that it “captured the rush of hormonal devotion and internalized shame that comes with being young and gay and unsure of how to exist in a society that’s changing but not quickly enough.” (That piece also points out that Discovery here is playing off of the Ramones song of the same name). 

In this context, the song’s details of affection (sleeping in another person’s bed, doing their laundry for them while they’re still asleep) reveal themselves as explorations and revelations of sexuality that carry more emotion than the song’s casual style might show off. In a 2010 interview with Out Magazine, Batmanglij said “With that song I was having fun, but at the same time it was honest—those lyrics are meaningful to me, they come from my heart. I was disappointed when it didn’t become a gay anthem, but, you know, it’s not too late.”

So if it’s not a popular touchstone for the album, it does seem like there’s a case to be made for “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” as a thematic centerpiece, a release of flirtation and buzzing crushes set to burbling, brimming, and breezy synth pop beats. 

One thing I am curious about when it comes to the full LP—I do think a lot of what I like about “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” comes from the back and forth between Batmanglij and Deradoorian, and I wonder if the songs on the rest of the record will sound as enticing with only one of those vocalists present. Batmanglij’s voice is fine, but on it’s own it’s not the most interesting-sounding thing in the world. I worry that Batmanglij’s vocals combined with this particular brand of sonic backdrop may leave me a little cold after a while. So I guess I am interested to hear the rest of this to see if I’m wrong about that. 

Youtube comments on shuffle: 

  • From 9 years ago: “me and my friends driving around stoned out of our minds, 1:41 felt like we were in mario kart lmao trippin balls”

Album reviews on shuffle:

  • As I kind of feared, a few of these reviews are broken. I can only get to Under the Radar’s excerpt, but that blurb refers to the record as “long-gestating hipster R&B” and “non-threatening, vaguely ironic fun.” I think what I’ve forgotten until now is the interesting connotations of those terms “hipster” and “ironic” in 2009 and how that probably affected the way this record was received back then—I don’t know if you could have been attached to Vampire Weekend in the late 2000s without contending with the whole hipster thing. 

Jordan Walsh | @jordalsh

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