Jean Dawson’s newest single is a support beam for my wavering stability

The song cover for MENTHOL* picturing Jean Dawson blending into piles of clothes.

@jeandawson on Instagram

The song cover for “MENTHOL*” picturing Jean Dawson blending into piles of clothes.

For the past month or so, I have been overtaken by projects and assignments and have struggled to pack in minutes to meet deadlines. And because inconvenience doesn’t have any regard for my circumstances, my bedroom floor is festering with papers, several heaping baskets of clothes, and all-around mess, only adding substance to my ever-increasing responsibility—to say the very least, my shoulders are tense and I’m quite overwhelmed. Though my Spotify playlists have generously acted as a crutch for my maimed sanity, I continue to falter in my steps towards my wit’s end.

Once the twelfth month of the year heavily drapes itself over my back, I feel the urge for fresh music to alleviate a couple of ounces of weight with lyrics that resonate with my strain; I need someone to reverberate my emotions through their own. In an attempt to guide me through this perpetual cumbersome feeling, I cycled through several discographies to find the song to be the anthem to my burdens. Then, as I hopped back over to my Home page, a banner advertising a new single from one of my favorite artists glowed among the expanse of my familiar listenings. I clicked the encircled play button on the single “MENTHOL*” by Jean Dawson and eagerly grew vulnerable for the sake of listening.

On Dec. 10th, 2021, Dawson dropped this single, arcing pent-up energy to static sounds, bouncy strums, and dynamic hostility. I have grown close to Jean Dawson’s songs throughout this past year as he reminds me of summer morning drives, undulating waves, oscillating sunshine, and eternal freedom—he provides me with endless moments to attach my feelings to. But despite this warm nostalgia that has melded me to his past music, “MENTHOL*” has flipped the script and given me a new support system to link onto.

The first seconds of the song are sparked by Dawson’s staple guitar strums, motioning in his raspy, hard-edge voice. Together, the vocals and instrumentals configure a pattern of mellifluous lyrics and rhythms. Shortly after, drum beats join in, adding an upbeat effect that makes the melody infectious. Within this first verse, Dawson illustrates how he has grown numb to isolation and the problems that leech onto him.

The raw emotion in “MENTHOL*”  is nearly tangible, making for the perfect outlet I was seeking out from the beginning.

“Sittin’ at the end of the road / Never hear what I’m told / It’s like I got everyone watchin’ me / No one watchin’ me go / I don’t need anything from no one, I never felt lonesome.”

Right as the beats and tones sink into the anticipated trajectory of the song, the chorus pulls a U-turn and drives down an opposite road of combative, explosive lyrics. The background music maintains the same pace and overall vibe from the start of the song, but with Dawson’s drastic switch of tone, his own angst and build-up are uncovered. He mentions, “I don’t smile no more but we all great,” almost as if he has come to terms with his void of well-being by masking it with a facade of faux contentment. 

After Dawson wraps up his pain-stricken verses, the artist Mac DeMarco pops into the outro of the song. Demarco casually reminds Dawson that he needs to give himself some more grace.

Jean Dawson and Mac DeMarco during the songwriting process. (Genius)

“Jean, it’s Mac D / Just droppin’ your line today to remind you that you should take it easy on yourself / Enjoy what you’re doing / And if you stop enjoying it at some point, hey, no problem / Don’t do it anymore.”

After DeMarco extinguishes the emotive fire lit by Dawson with his loving reminder, the song concludes in a fashion that should be applicable to any situation one might be faced with.

The raw emotion in “MENTHOL*”  is nearly tangible, making for the perfect outlet I was seeking out from the beginning. Though every situation is going to differ from what Dawson was feeling specifically in this song, “MENTHOL*” is fitting for any situation tied to negative emotion. He personifies that angst and agony through sounds that elicit a primitive feeling of resonance. 

Even though there are far more quandaries and messes to overcome in my near future, “MENTHOL*” is there to supplement my uncertainty with just the right amount of satisfaction I need for the time being. Nothing can quite cease my swirl around the drain, but at least for now, I have the perfect soundtrack to follow along with me.