In Rotation: the rest by boygenius

In Rotation: the rest by boygenius

Following their critically acclaimed debut album, the record, the queer, all-female supergroup that consists of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus releases a 4-song EP of tracks that weren’t quite ready for the album at the time of its drop. Coming just over 6 months after the record and only 18 days before the final date of their world tour, these 4 tracks sparked immense excitement throughout the boygenius fandom. the rest may be short, but boy, is it great. The boys, as the members like to be called, debuted each of the 4 songs live throughout the fall 2023 leg of their tour. They started with “Black Hole” on September 25th and closed with “Powers” on September 30th. They finally played all 4 of the songs together for the first time at one of their biggest headlining shows to date, Madison Square Garden in New York City, on October 2nd, which was actually my third and final (until they go on tour again) time seeing them in concert. So, let’s get into the breakdown–


Black Hole

Afraid Of Heights





1. Black Hole 

Synopsis– This song is a direct and immediate callback to the boys’ hit single, “Not Strong Enough,” from the record, which opens with the line “Black hole opened in the kitchen.” But the “black holes” in either song are complete opposites. In “Not Strong Enough,” the black hole represents the sucking into the abyss of everything, how the speaker has quite a destructive nature. But, in “Black Hole,” they are referencing the beauty in the madness, the creation of stars, which is in allusion to a newly discovered phenomenon, where a mysterious black hole has been shown to leave a trail on new stars in its path. They played this song for the first time live on September 25th, 2023

Lyric Pullouts–

“You can see the stars, the ones 

The headlines said this morning 

Were bein’ spat out by what we thought 

Was destroying everything for good” (Verse 1)

In this lyric, Julien is referencing the article, “Hubble Sees Possible Runaway Black Hole Creating a Trail Of Stars,” in which NASA explains that “[a]s the black hole plows through intergalactic space it compresses tenuous gas in front of it. This precipitates the birth of hot blue stars.” Julien uses this to contrast the typical thought of a black hole, that it’s just a destructive mass, tearing apart everything is its way, but in reality, it can create things that are so beautiful.

“It’s out of your hands, but have a safe flight” (Verse 2)

This line stood out to me immediately the first time I heard the track, and it probably remains my favorite line in the song, maybe even the entire album. Everyone has said some iteration of “have a safe flight,” “get home safe,” etc. in their lifetimes. Lucy is doing the same thing in this lyric, but she’s also recognizing that the person she’s saying it to has no control over whether the flight is safe or not. It kind of just addresses the fact that we really have little to no choice over whether things go well or not, but we will still hope and wish for the best.

The Boys’ Commentary– Julien explained that the inspiration behind the song came from “Lucy show[ing her] a tweet that was a headline that was like, ‘Black Hole Creating Stars,’ instead of just sucking them up and destroying them. And everybody on the internet was like, ‘Can’t wait to see how many people put this in a poem!’ And [she] was like ‘Yeah, I’m gonna be one!'” (via the band’s live in-store performance at Fingerprints Music in Long Beach, CA)

2. Afraid Of Heights 

Synopsis– The second track, which made its live debut on September 27th, 2023 at their show at MGM Music Hall in Boston, is about being friends with someone who’s extremely reckless. They justify their actions by saying that they’re “just having fun” and that “you only live once,” but ultimately, they’re just ruining their life, and, even if unknowingly, trying to do the same to the speaker.

Lyric Pullouts–

“I wanna live a vibrant life 

But I wanna die a boring death” (Verse 3)

Lucy expresses that she wants to have a life that is full of great experiences and variation, but doesn’t want that to be the cause of her death. She instead wants to pass away peacefully, which most likely means in her sleep and surrounded by her loved ones. She may feel as though being with the subject of the song makes it seem almost as if she’s unable to have that choice and it’s either a boring life or a vibrant death. This reflects on how she and the subject are on polar opposite ends of the same scale, where she values her life and doesn’t want to endanger it for short-term experiences, while the subject feels like life is uncertain and they’d rather make the most of it, even if that means death.

“Not everybody gets the chance to live 

A life that isn’t dangerous” (Verse 3)

In these lines, Lucy is expressing her gratitude for the fact that she is able to have the choice to live a life that isn’t full of danger, instead of one where a person’s life is surrounded by danger (for example, people living in countries in conflict) and have no choice. This also relates to the experience of being a queer person in America, or really anywhere in the world. The boys, who are all queer, are constantly advocating for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and this lyric helps to express that. Being LGBTQ+ is not a choice, and by being someone who is, they are also met with the dangers that come with it.

“You called me a crybaby 

But you’re the one who got teary 

Telling me what you believe 

How we’re stuck in entropy” (Outro)

This lyric reflects on the true feelings of the subject and why they make the choices that they do. They understand that life is unpredictable and maybe feel that it is pointless, so they live it to the fullest even if that could be the cause for their death, because they basically do not care. They may call Lucy the “crybaby” in this situation for not taking as many risks as them, but they are the one who is truly fearful and not as “joyous” or “carefree” as they let on.

The Boys’ Commentary– Lucy explains to fans how this song was “one of the first potential songs for the record, but then, at the end of the day it didn’t really fit. But it’s about…being a scaredy-cat and feeling kinda guilty about that, but ultimately staying safe and enjoying yourself.” (via the band’s live in-store performance at Fingerprints Music in Long Beach, CA). Phoebe comments that the song “doesn’t have a place on the record. It has its place on [the rest] as a shining star but it’s just funny because it’s one of my favorite ones for the album. I was like ‘No, this has to be on the rest.'” (via Apple Music)

3. Voyager 

Synopsis– This track references and compliments Phoebe’s strong duo of songs, “Me & My Dog” from the boys’ first and self-titled EP, and “Letter To An Old Poet” from the record. Each of these songs have many mentions of space and longing in difficult relationships, and all 3 are led by Phoebe’s beautiful vocals. The band first debuted this song together on September 28th, 2023 at Westville Music Bowl in New Haven. But it was actually initially performed by Phoebe herself at one of her solo shows on July 29th, 2022 at the O2 Academy in Brixton.

Lyric Pullouts–

“When you stepped on the gas and asked if I’m ready to die (Mmm) 

You thought that I’d never leave and I let you believe you were right (Mmm)” (Verse 2)

The first line relates somewhat to “Afraid Of Heights,” in which the subject is unafraid of the risks they’re taking and is in turn endangering the life of the speaker. In the following line, she expresses her unhappiness with the relationship. She acted as if she was deeply in love with her partner, so much so that they believed they’d never break up, and she kept it up so as to not upset them, even though she did not want to stay in the situation.

“But I never imagined a dot quite as pale or as blue (Ooh) 

You took it from me but I would’ve given it to you (Mmm)” (Verse 3)

In the first line, Phoebe is referencing the 1990  photograph of Earth, “Pale Blue Dot,” and Carl Sagan speech that accompanied it. In his speech, Sagan said “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.” In the lyric, Phoebe plays on the words “pale” and “blue,” which express her feelings of loneliness and isolation. In the second line, Phoebe references her solo song, “Moon Song,” where she expresses that she’d do everything and anything to make her partner happy. She connects that theme to this line, saying almost the same thing except with the addition of her partner taking it from her. She is basically stating that her partner didn’t need to steal anything away from her, as she would’ve happily given any and everything up to them willingly.

The Boys’ Commentary– Phoebe says that “[i]t’s funny. I found a draft of that song–because it’s only three verses, really, it just had so many [versions of different] verses. I wasn’t excited to show it to people, I was kind of like, it was percolating, and then, by the time it was these three stanzas, I was just trying to show it to everyone and really proud of it. I’m really glad it’s a boygenius song.” (via Apple Music)

4. Powers 

Synopsis– The debut of the final song on the EP was on September 30th, 2023 at TD Pavilion at the Mann in Philadelphia (which also happens to be the second time that I saw them perform live). This song is written as a search for the origin of the speaker (who in this case happens to be Julien). She utilizes tropes from comic books and references to destructive scientific reactions to serve as metaphors for the pondering and explanation of her origin story. The song ends with a heavy yet beautiful minute and 12 second long trumpet arrangement that just fits so well within the theme of the track.

Lyric Pullouts–

“How did it start? Did I fall into a nuclear reactor?  

Crawl out with acid skin or somethin’ worse 

A hostile alien ambassador? 

Or am I just another of the universe’s failed experiments?” (Verse 1)

Julien uses a play on generic supervillain origin stories, such as falling into a tank of toxic chemicals or being the subject of some strange and inhumane experiment, as a way to try and explain why she is the way she is. She spends the entirety of the song searching for what made her the way she is, how she achieved her “powers.” The verse begins with self-loathing comments on what could have made her this way, but ends on a positive note, by addressing these flaws as her “powers.” The theme of this track, and these lines especially, are very often seen throughout Julien’s solo work.

The Boys’ Commentary– Lucy mentions that “[i]n the beginning [of the song], where Julien sighs, she assumed it would be cut out and it would start after that, but we were like ‘You have to keep it,’ and I watched everyone starting to look at each other and hold their breath through the whole take.” (via Apple Music)




Coming back from an almost 5 year long hiatus, boygenius dropping the record, followed by their world tour, and then announcing and releasing the rest, was all fans could’ve asked for. Thus EP may not be as phenomenal as their full length album, but it is still extremely beautiful, and what every boygenius fan needed. The release of the EP really allowed their comeback to feel complete and full-circle, and allowed for another break for the band. While I ache in anticipation for the next boygenius project, I am extremely eager to see what the individual boys do next with their solo careers. And finally–


1. Afraid Of Heights

2. Black Hole

3. Powers

4. Voyager





Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Ewing's Voice Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *