Simple, straightforward, self-righteous and defiant: This is the formula of UPSAHL’s latest alt-pop assertion, “Smile For the Camera.” Complete with a driving shuffle, quiet-loud-quiet-loud structure and a fuzzy guitar refrain swiped directly from the Dan Auerbach playbook, this track must find itself in good company among the classic 2010s indie-pop acts UPSAHL now tours with.
Despite its outwardly rebellious attitude, “Smile For the Camera” is a song that takes relatively few risks apart from the occasionally profane lyric. It might have inspired Tipper Gore to throw a tantrum, but modern audiences will likely find its lyrical content palatable and tame. Its themes of youthful frustration over the restrictive cultural inclinations of an older generation are, ironically, timeless. Indeed, the highly general message of “Smile For the Camera” imbues it with widespread relatability and appeal and, it is difficult to predict what anyone could find offensive about it, despite UPSAHL’s best intentions (or, perhaps, her worst). UPSAHL embraces the aesthetic of the rebel-without-a-cause, but it remains unclear exactly which rules she isn’t listening to.
Nevertheless, UPSAHL’s recent success is unsurprising, and this track has all the makings of a radio-indie smash. It is clean-cut, hard-hitting, brimming with attitude and galvanized by its catchy chorus. Although there is a continent of distance between these two artists, “Smile For the Camera” is immediately and thematically reminiscent of Alessia Cara’s 2015 Canadian pop hit, “Wild Things.” Much like that song, I foresee “Smile For the Camera” occupying a time-honoured space on retail playlists for years to come.