It’s been more than two years since Oh Wonder‘s sophomore album, Ultralife, was released in the summer of 2017. Since then, the U.K.-based duo (made up of Anthony West and Josephine Vander Gucht) have pushed their sparkling brand of indie pop into even more personal directions, as they’ve steadily recorded new music in their home studio in London.
On the band’s third album, No One Else Can Wear Your Crown, West and Vander Gucht explore their relationship both as romantic partners and as bandmates — from the anthemic defiance of lead single “Hallelujah” to the swoonworthy love letter of “In and Out of Love.”
Tucked amidst the glimmering, pop-driven body of work are comforting odes penned to family members (“Better Now”), cathartic nods to ex-loves finding new partners (“Better Now”) and even an imaginative, jazz-fueled ditty about dating a space-exploring astronaut (“Nothing But You”).
To celebrate the album’s Friday release (Feb. 7), Oh Wonder broke down the inspiration behind all 10 tracks, exclusively to Billboard. Check out the duo’s track-by-track commentary of No One Else Can Wear Your Crown below.
This was the first song we wrote that we knew we were going to put on the album. It’s kind of a stream-of-consciousness about the state of the world and the craziness of capitalism, and we wanted it to be a comforting reminder that in spite of everything, all humans are fundamentally the same and made up of the same matter. We should therefore have compassion and be there for each other, and let each other get on with our own business of “wearing our crowns.”
We wrote this song in Los Angeles with Sasha Sloan, one of our favorite artists and songwriters. It’s about being happy for an ex after they’ve found a new partner. We also made a mad music video for it, which includes us in full prosthetics performing in a nursing home as 90-year-olds.
Josephine’s cousin experienced a very difficult birth of his first baby, and we wanted to write a song to comfort him whilst he was in the middle of such a traumatic time. It must be a crazy feeling watching someone you love suffer, whilst being completely helpless and unable to do anything.
This was the first song we released from the new record. We wanted to make a statement both lyrically and sonically. It’s a kind of passionate anthem of self-defiance that we wrote for ourselves to acknowledge our perseverance and determination to make it as musicians. It’s all we both ever wanted, and over the last 15 years we have had many people tell us that our dreams were invalid or too impossible. Hopefully it inspires people to ignore the haters and find the strength to pursue their own dreams.
“In And Out Of Love”
This was our love song to each other, if that isn’t too cringe (!) It kind of says that if we had never met each other, we’d have still spent our lives dating other people, but knowing they weren’t the one. So we’d be effectively waiting for each other. Like, we were meant to be.
“How It Goes”
This is basically Craig David’s “7 Days,” but for the sad generation. Some days you wake up and you feel absolutely terrible, lonely, ugly, unworthy, disgusting, unsuccessful, lost, hopeless. The next day your hair is perfect, you have loads of friends, and you’re an intelligent, capable powerhouse of brilliance. That’s just how it goes.
“Drunk On You”
“Drunk On You” started as a sweet piano ballad, but we wanted something sonically heavy and thrashy on the album so turned it into a bit of a raging banger. It’s about meeting someone on a night out and feeling like they will still be on your mind the next morning…
“Nothing But You”
This is a jazzy-tinged reflection on what it would be like to be dating an astronaut.
“I Wish I Never Met You”
This tune is Josephine trying to deal with her ex-boyfriends, all of whom cheated on her, including the “first love” she had at 15. The betrayals left her with some deep trust issues, but as the song says, “It takes time to get bigger, shine bright, find a rhythm.”
Seven years of being a couple in a band is a pretty crazy concept for a relationship. It’s rare that we spend more than a few hours apart from each other, and that intensity was something we unknowingly challenged when we wrote this song. Ironically, we have never been to Nebraska…