A groovy blend of loneliness and nostalgia, Daya’s "Love You When You’re Gone" is a heartache-inducing ode to both sensations. Gone is the teenage angst of her 2016 debut album, Sit Still, Look Pretty, which dropped when the singer-songwriter was only 16. The now 23-year-old artist has a lot more life experience up her songwriting sleeve — and it shows.
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Daya hasn’t exactly been dormant since breaking out. In the past six years, she has released a diverse range of collaborations and singles, dropped a quarantine EP, and hopped on soundtracks for projects like 13 Reasons Why and Late Night. "Love You When You’re Gone," though, marks her bold entrance into an era that is the most intimate and unapologetically her to date.
"After my debut, it was tough to follow up with something that I felt was authentic to me yet met all of these leftover expectations from that first album. I felt like I was being pulled in a million different directions that I didn’t want to go in," Daya tells PAPER. "And, at the same time, I was going through my developmental years and rapidly distancing myself from the 16-year-old I was at the time of its release."
The '80s-inspired song describes the isolation experienced in a relationship that — to borrow from another recently released synthy track — is not the same as it was. In both Daya's song and music video, the pop singer effortlessly portrays the separation and yearning of someone mourning a love that was always better in theory than in practice.
"It feels raw and messy and imperfect and intimate," Daya says. "I can only hope that others will be able to feel that through the music and relate to it all the more."
Notably absent from this track are the "Mr. Rights" and "good boys" Daya once sang about. "Love You When You’re Gone" is a queer breakup anthem and its video offers a closer look into the story that inspired its lyrics. The song is lifted off the artist’s forthcoming EP, which will give us a more unfiltered look into Daya's life since her Sit Still, Look Pretty days.
"In order to drown out a lot of the industry noise and pressure, I focused on creating a team and space where I could just experiment and be honest with myself through my work," she says. "'Love You When You’re Gone' is a direct result of this — leaning in to my individual writing style and exploring sounds and themes and feelings from my own singular perspective."
Daya, we may still love you when you’re gone, but we love you even more now that you’re back.
Photography: Audrey Steimer
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