On April 21, Rio Romeo released their new single “Over & Over.” This single, like a majority of Romeo’s songs, is short. However, being under two minutes hasn’t stopped it from being on a mental loop ever since I’ve heard it. Romeo is hard to define, but, according to their Spotify biography, they’re a lesbian musician making “cabaret punk & alternative indie pop on their acoustic piano.” “Over & Over” is no exception, filled with the characteristic (dare I say tinny?) piano and an imperfect voice I always adore. Of course, it helps that I have enjoyed cabaret and similar styles of music in the past — everyone went through a steampunk phase that ended up being more than a phase, right?
Romeo’s discography often only has one or two instruments accompanying their voice, generally their piano. This can especially be found in some of their earlier work, such as “Butch 4 Butch,” which went viral on TikTok. This allows for listeners to focus on Romeo’s words, a mix of lyricism and wit. From comedic storylines such as the encounter(s) described in “Dyltgir?” and “Small Towns” to wordplay in “Fuck It,” Romeo’s songs make it impossible not to absorb every last line, which is an element I really enjoy. “Over & Over” doesn’t necessarily depart from this, but is different in that there’s also a vocalized melody.
This song has a bit more chaos to it, undertones of a relatable manic energy with the melody cheerfully singing of doom and the background vocals that climax into a scream before everything stops aside from the main singing and a quieter version of the initial “boom ba-da, doom ba-da” that precedes to permeate the entire song. “Over & Over” is also more repetitive than I’ve come to expect from Romeo, but I’ve found that I quite like it. There are subtle changes as Romeo repeats the same words, well, over and over — as the title suggests, the repeated line is “over and over.” The verses hold more depth, with Romeo describing a cycle of “f—ing [themselves] over / over and over” and the growing pains that come from leaving a bad situation, singing “And with my departure from the pain I harbor / I feel I am sinking and sailing to swim.”
This song feels physical, with the vocalizations and a clapping or stomping sound that feels spur of the moment. This physicality makes the song feel more … tangible, adding to the spatiality from the feeling of distance in the outro. It also adds to the feeling of falling into spirals of bad habits and behaviors that this song seems to exemplify. Romeo’s music video, shot and edited by Jason Schiller, also adds a lot.
I don’t normally comment on music videos, but this one was really interesting. Simple yet striking, the music video looks like a retro home recording in many ways, with B-roll such as supersaturated sunsets, black and white film and technicolor-esque accelerated video of flower blooms interspersed between grainy footage of Romeo. There’s that distinctive yellow text captioning the song once the verses begin, which gets increasingly more chaotic once they begin the chorus before returning to normal to finish off the song. In the footage, Romeo is often smiling at the camera as they sing or is surrounded by brightness, adding a dissonance between their appearance and their words. This mask breaks at the outro, when Romeo repeats the last two lines of verse before finishing the video with desaturated shots of them smoking alone, almost contemplatively.
Suffice to say, I like the song. I like Rio Romeo and I would be hard-pressed to find a song I didn’t like, but I will say I am a little surprised that I like this one as much as I do. In previous songs, I primarily enjoyed the variety of lyrics and the piano accompaniment (I always like to say I’ll learn the piano again, which means I just listen really intently to it whenever I hear piano in my liked songs on Spotify). This song’s focus isn’t quite on lyrics or the piano, though. There isn’t very much variation in the lyrics and the buildup of the song leads to a moment without piano. What this song has, however, is that same feeling I get from a lot of their other (non-comedic) work — something intimate, but relatable. If I think about the song too long, I cry, as it brings me to thoughts of my own self-destructive behaviors and the floundering that comes from leaving familiarity to pursue self-betterment. This isn’t a song to add to every playlist you listen to or to play the second you get the aux when hanging with your friends, but it is a song to cry in the woods to or simply enjoy when you want something a little different.