boygenius – the supergroup comprising of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker (three of the greatest current indie-rock stars) – have only released one project of entirely new material to date; their 2018 self-titled debut. The three have continued to release work together however; Baker and Dacus contributed backing vocals to Bridger’s ‘Graceland Too’, Dacus and Bridgers gave their backing vocals to Baker’s ‘Favor’ and, Baker and Bridger’s, most recently, added backing vocals to Dacus’s ‘Please Stay’.
Many fans have dubbed this the “boygenius trilogy” and wondered if there may even be a deeper meaning behind why the three decided to collaborate on these three tracks specifically.
While the choice of the three aforementioned tracks could just be a coincidence, there’s certainly common threads that run through each of them. Each of the three represent one of the darkest tracks on the respective albums they’re on (Bridger’s ‘Punisher’, Dacus’s ‘Home Video’ and Baker’s ‘Favor’). Each track, perhaps, contains the clearest, most overt references to suicide out of all the album’s tracks; ‘Graceland Too’ begins with the line ‘No longer a danger to herself or others’, while the chorus of ‘Please Stay’ opens with the lyric ‘I think you mean what you say / When you say that you want to die’. ‘Favor’, perhaps the darkest of the three tracks (which is saying something) contains the heart-wrenching lyric ‘who put me in your way to find? / And what right had you not to let me die’.
For all their heaviness however, each of the three tracks contain an unmistakeable element of hope. The opening line of ‘Graceland Too’ makes clear that whatever danger the protagonist presented to themselves is in the past (“no longer”), Dacus, meanwhile, reminds the subject of ‘Please Stay’ that she’ll always be a “friend” they can “call”, should they need to. The suicidal ideation of ‘Favor’s’ narrator meanwhile is presented firmly in the past tense.
Dacus and Bridger’s said the following of their tracks in the trilogy:
Lucy Dacus on ‘Please Stay’: “I wrote it in September of 2019, after we recorded most of the record. I had been circling around this role that I have played throughout my life, where I am trying to convince somebody that I love very much that their life is worth living. The song is about me just feeling helpless but trying to do anything I can to offer any sort of way in to life, instead of a way out. One day at a time is the right pace to aim for.”
Phoebe Bridgers on ‘Graceland Too’: “I started writing it about an MDMA trip. Or I had a couple lines about that and then it turned into stuff that was going on in my life. Again, caring about someone who hates themselves and is super self-destructive is the hardest thing about being a person, to me. You can’t control people, but it’s tempting to want to help when someone’s going through something, and I think it was just like a meditation almost on that — a reflection of trying to be there for people. I hope someday I get to hang out with the people who have really struggled with addiction or suicidal shit and have a good time. I want to write more songs like that, what I wish would happen.”
There’s a clear split in perspective between that seen on ‘Please Stay’ and ‘Graceland Too’ and, that seen on ‘Favor’. The first two are spoken from the perspective of a third person commenting on someone suicidal, while ‘Favor’ is sung from the perspective of someone who has dealt with suicidal ideation themselves (Baker’s own comments on the song would seem to suggest it’s largely autobiographical).
This leads me onto what I think is the most likely meaning behind the trilogy is; that ‘Please Stay’ and ‘Graceland Too’ are addressed to the narrator of ‘Favor’; ‘Please Stay’ is a plea for them not to end it all and ‘Graceland Too’ is set later – once the narrator has largely battled their demons (when she is “no longer a danger to herself”). ‘Favor’ then seems to reference the two narrators of these songs who helped her out of her black hole (“Who put me in your way to find?”). The narrator clearly still has inner battles to face; depression, low self-worth, etc, but they’re obviously thankful for the help their friends have offered along the way; with ‘Favor’ ending with the track’s narrator remarking on how much she’d have missed her friends if she’d gone through with suicide.