Songwriting about growth is about as ordinary as songwriting about love—regardless of its ubiquity, it’s rarely done well. When a song attempts to act as a snapshot of life’s most important moments, challenging and otherwise, it’s forced into some sticky, vulnerable territory—speaking only to those open to contemplating it. Nashville grunge-punks Bully, and their song, “Focused,” does that for me—in it, frontwoman Alicia Bognanno reflects on (and screams about!) young female friendship, the romance of having a close, platonic pal in adolescence. Defined by a descending bass riff, the song addresses, but doesn’t necessarily celebrate, those critical teenage years—in a few words: it sounds hard because it is hard, dude.
The song’s video, too, embodies a particular kind of coming-of-age experience (or course, not specific to young women, but it’s certainly crucial to celebrate—something the 2017 film Lady Bird did well enough to earn it a handful of Oscar noms. This is musical Lady Bird.) The visual and its animation by artist Rozalina Burkova all seems to nail down that feeling of growth. It’s the sensation of running through the world unsure of a lot: dark backdrops, Burkova’s images bright against them.
The video actually makes the song seem buoyant, even when Bognanno breaks form to holler, “I’m gonna kill him!” nearish the track’s end, right before its final chorus. Who the “he” is, is unknown, but it’s better that way—like a memory from youth, the feelings sustain themselves. The people, they don’t always stick around.