Millennial Wise: Chloe Tang’s 'Passion//Aggression'

By: William Baumgartner

Louis CK, the brilliant comedian and social critic, has a bit in which he explains why a 50-year-old garbage man is more interesting than any 21-year-old with four degrees (or something to that effect). The bit is spot on, though like most philosophies, it does have its exceptions. Sometimes this baby boomer meets a millennial who feels wise beyond their years, and beyond “interesting” to the point of being rather fascinating. Though I haven’t met Chloe Tang in person, listening to her new EP Passion//Aggression is like meeting a young person who exceeds expectations and defies stereotypes.

Chloe Tang.

Chloe Tang.

The five-song disc begins quietly, and overall, the feel of the EP is just a bit more introspective than rocking. Still, each of the songs has a drive and momentum that’s infectious. “No One Will” has a lilting beginning, a building verse, and a breakaway chorus marked by its relatively stark instrumentation. Like several of the songs here, it’s about love gone awry, regret, and acknowledgement of the good in a sad situation. It’s a hallmark of all these songs that shows how a young woman can be wise: looking at herself as well as her lover, asking important questions, and sparing herself nothing in her reflections on the scene described. This girl pulls no punches, even when they’re aimed at herself.

The second song, “Electrified,” is one of my favorites for several reasons: as befits the title, it rocks at least as hard as any of the other tracks, it has a killer chorus, and I love a song that declares independence from a relationship that was more unhealthy than the other way around, or at least that’s what this listener got from the lyrics. Maybe Tang herself would tell me I read it wrong, but that’s another great thing about these songs: for the most part, her lyrics are sparsely imagistic and leave at least something to interpretation and imagination.

Watch Chloe Tang’s music video for “Forgive You Again”:

“Forgive You Again” is the release’s centerpiece, the first single, and there’s a great video you should watch: I defy any sentient person to resist choking up a little seeing it; I certainly did. The song itself is a power ballad with a kind message: “When ghosts return/we always learn to find a way to balance and burn/They will make you confess your worst and your best/but maybe they’ll forgive you again.” It’s an undeniably sweet and powerful song; it also features what’s been dubbed the “Millennial Whoop”: a wordless refrain that uses the fifth and third of a major scale. When I chatted with Chloe on the phone, I mentioned this, and she was genuinely surprised that she’d used this device she’d never even heard about. To me, that’s further proof that she is overall a genuine and sincere soul; there’s no guile in her songwriting, just a lot of heart, and a songwriter doesn’t exist who hasn’t used common devices like this, whether consciously or not.

“Tell Me I’m Wrong” returns to the theme of self-examination and self-confrontation. Like I said, Chloe pulls no punches with lines like, “My excuse is I wasn’t awake” and “I woke up every day with a lie and a bluff.” Again, it’s a song that begins quietly, builds through the verse, and hones in with a powerful chorus, like having a frank conversation with oneself.

The EP’s closer, “Till I Get Up,” is in a lot of ways the strongest song here. It begins with a groovy soul bassline and proceeds to rock righteously through the verse and chorus. The lyrics stress persistence through difficulties leading to a strong resolve, and the overall result is a song that feels like an anthem you want to shout along with. “It’s me against myself and all my ghosts;” “And it keeps pushing waiting for me to make a fuss/but I breathe, I breathe, I breathe till I get up.” Tell it, sister!  

Chloe Tang is indeed 21 years old, and I didn’t ask her much about her education, but I don’t think she has any degrees yet, let alone four: she currently studies songwriting at CU Denver, and went to a charter arts school in her native state of Arizona prior. She began playing piano and singing at the age of five, and started writing songs at about age 15. She grew up on folk (her Dad’s influence), is a fan of James Bay, Kaleo, Of Monsters and Men, and Amber Run, and has been lately getting into classic rock. She also confesses a love of “corny pop from the eighties.” I may not share all her tastes, but I’m sure we could have at least one long and fascinating conversation about music, and yes, about life: she might even teach me a thing or two! I’m definitely going to be at her EP release show at the Hi-Dive this Thursday March 9th because after listening to this young woman’s music, I just have to see what she does with it live. Join me; tickets here.

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.