Their second song of 2021, Eighty Ninety’s “Heart on the Line” is a soulful, peaceful song. Full of vivid imagery, “Heart on the Line” is very much on-brand for Eighty Ninety as they tell a story through the lyrics and progression of “Heat on the Line.”
The song begins with a slow consistent strumming of a guitar before Eighty Ninety begin to sing with beautiful, peaceful vocals. The guitar is consistent in the background of the song, the backbone of the instruments. It grounds the sound in the slow, peaceful strumming that provides a sad backdrop. The strumming evoked for me an image of someone sitting outside or by their window slowly strumming as they pondered life and it’s downfalls. The lyrics aren’t consistent, allowing for the listener to take everything in and not be overwhelmed. It fits perfectly with the vibe of the song that is quiet and slow.
Even more so, the quietness and slowness seem perfect for the very personal aspect of the song. “Heat of the Line” is about wondering whether to continue fighting for a relationship or let it go. While many people may experience that in their life, everyone’s experience is different and how they respond. The melodic, peaceful essence of the song through it’s lyrics and instruments capture how Eighty Ninety may feel and react.
Eighty Ninety adds more electric sounds and instruments in the chorus, but they do it slowly, not all at once. First, come drums beat, joining in with the strumming. Then, more electric sounds. The gradual increase of energy and sounds make the chorus stand out against the rest of “Heart on the Line,” while also not overloading the listener. The energy of the chorus matched the lyrics and situation perfectly. As there was more in the soundtrack, Eighty Ninety had reached the point in their lyrics where they were singing about whether to continue or end the relationship. “Now I’m all choked up / And now I can’t sleep / Are we falling in love / Or apart at the seams? / Maybe we can’t know / Maybe love is the same as belief.”
The ending still includes more electric sounds like horns, similar for me to things you may hear outside, which connected with the imagery of the red lights earlier in the song. Then, in the final moments of the song, Eighty Ninety go back to slowly strumming the guitar and singing. The return to the simple and quiet highlight the journey they went through in the song, wondering what they will do. Now they are back to themselves and having to make a decision.
I loved the storytelling aspect of the song. It grounded the song in a time and place, while opening a glimpse into someone’s life as pretty and heartbreaking as it was. The lyrics occasionally stood out against the simplistic soundtrack like “You took the long way in case it’s the last time.” Other times it took me multiple listens to hear: “Another way to say I think I’ve loved you my whole life.” The lyrics were so beautiful and heartbreaking, which made me love them so much more. The song wasn’t only about the moment of wondering whether to fight for the relationship but also remember all the great moments and experiences the relationship provided them.
I loved “Heart on the Line” by Eighty Ninety, even more so with each listen. It also reminded me of a song that has been a top song of mine lately: “a million pretty pieces” by Fleurie and Nightly.
Brooklyn-based brothers Abner and Harper James are the voice and instruments behind Eighty Ninety. Both brothers partake in the production of each song with Abner singing while Harper plays the guitar. Debuting in 2016 with their single “Three Thirty,” Eighty Ninety released their first EP Elizabeth later that year. Their single “Your Favorite Thing” from 2017 would later be added by Taylor Swift to her official Spotify playlist Songs Taylor Loves. “Three Thirty” reached #2 on Spotify’s Global Viral Chart when released and have had other songs featured on Spotify’s New Music Friday as well as other playlists (Chill Pop, Soda, and more). The brothers call Eighty Ninety’s style “808s and telecasters” that combines “storytelling, sticky melodies, and minimalistic pop productions.” When discussing their process, the brothers state: “We let the emotional arc of the song, rather than any set of genre conventions, lead us to instruments and sounds.” Ones to Watch state that the brother duo have a “mesmerizing…intoxicating sound…that is, above all else, their own.”
Written by Anne Friedman