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“Nice Things” – Madisyn Gifford | Unheard Gems

“Nice Things” is the most cheerful breakup song I’ve ever heard. It abandons all the tropes of its sub-genre—the sorrow! The melodrama! The solipsistic angst!—in favor of goofy, talkative lyrics and a carnival of instruments and sound effects. It’s sweet, funny, and self-consciously silly. And most impressively, it manages to be all these things without losing its message or its meaning.

Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise, because Madisyn Gifford is already pretty adept at love songs. In the span of one year (!), the Vancouver-based musician has explored the genre’s whole spectrum, from the dark and sentimental (“Without You”) to the cutesy and reflective (“Black Coffee”) to the adventurous and—frankly—trippy (“Voulez-Vous”; watch the music video). Her last single, “Bare Minimum”, cheerily embraces a dysfunctional fun not often seen in breakup songs. With “Nice Things”, that dysfunction reaches its apotheosis.

But the song, of course, stands on its own too. It begins with “One of these days I’m gonna clean my room / Too much of this stuff reminds me of you”, immediately linking her cluttered room to Gifford’s cluttered thoughts. From then on we’re stuck in the room with her, witnessing the colorful chaos—and enjoying every moment of it. Gifford doesn’t languish, nor does she attempt to justify her mess or shift the blame. Even her internal monologue agrees: things are weird, and that’s okay.

As in all her songs, Gifford’s voice is exemplary. She channels not just emotion, but attitude. When she rhythmically asserts “I’m getting out of hand”, I can almost see her jabbing her finger at her awestruck stuffed animals, lined up on an overflowing bed.

I love “Nice Things” because it’s goofily self-diagnostic. As Gifford choruses “This is why I can’t have nice things” and “Bet you didn’t know I was toxic”, it’s clear that even amid the chaos, she understands where her problems are coming from. But instead of punishing herself for her faults, she embraces them.

That’s the real charm of the song: it’s about self-love. Breakup songs often focus on what’s missing. “Nice Things”, on the other hand, focuses on what’s left. And what’s left is pretty nice.