Noël Wells Breaks Down “It’s So Nice!” Track by Track
The songwriter and SNL alum gives us a proper introduction to her debut LP, which drops today.
You’ve probably heard Noël Wells’ voice before, if not from her brief stint on Saturday Night Live, then via her recurring role on Netflix’s Master of None, or elsewhere on streaming platforms with her starring role in her own directorial debut Mr. Roosevelt. Yet you may not have heard it quite like this—yearning harmonically over bluesy indie rock guitar on an uncharacteristically earnest collection of songs at odds with the comedian’s career behind the camera and on the UCB stage.
It’s So Nice! is the multifaceted performer’s debut record as a solo musician, seemingly providing an outlet for the non-comic thoughts that inevitably infiltrate the mind of a millennial—anxieties and heartbreaks specific to an upbringing full of Y2Ks and online relationships. Full of thoughtful lyrics and catchy downtempo rock—with cameos by bar room pianos, slide guitars, and snare brushes—Nice! is as wistful as it is cathartic.
We asked Wells to give us a brief backstory for each of the record’s eleven tracks, which she provided with the wit and humor we’ve come to expect from the performer who brought the six-year-old film critic Aiden Tomasseto to life. “The songs are written better than the explanations will be,” Wells warns, “but I’m really excited to talk about this baby any chance I get, so here we go.”
1. “Played for Keeps”
I wrote this song while filming a pilot in Austin while staying at Connie Britton’s house. I don’t know Connie Britton, it was just the house our Austin production team put us up in and it really had very good creative vibes. It started out being about missing my mom, but turned into a song more about romantic heartbreak and giving love unconditionally while not getting your needs met from someone who is not giving back (I recently found out the technical term for this dynamic is “codependency”—fun!).
This was basically the gateway song into taking my music ambitions seriously. I was Facetiming with a friend while strumming a guitar at an Airbnb and jokingly made up a few lines and we were like, “Wait, that is actually good in a good way, not in a joke way…” Lyrically it’s about the contradictions of modern life and how we have been tricked into working to achieve by “it” and “them,” thinking there is something to win at the end when really life is about the present, and the push and pull between that.
3. “Sad Girl Blues”
The album’s “anthem…” I reflect on the unfun-ness of being a girl trapped on the boys’ playground, and the very girlish wish that someone would just come and fix everything for me—but I realize my true desire is to come into my power and be met equally by the people (*cough* men) around me.
One part dick-swinging and another part grieving the loss of innocence…lyrically it’s kind of like an arty version of that one Chumbawamba song “Tubthumping,” about how despite our natural capacity and right to dream big, life knocks us down over and over again and over time it can get harder to get back up.
5. “It’s So Nice!”
Title track! This is the big produced version of the song (there’s a different version later) that is a little heaven and a little hell and very fun, and encapsulates the ethos of the whole album and maybe even my worldview. That the darkest and most painful times can be a window into recognizing the most beauty—and ultimately the beauty never goes away, it is always there, we just get too distracted by our dramas to witness it. I would like to shoot a big music video to this song with Jon Hamm as the devil. Please someone help me figure this out. I got a shotlist ready to go and it will only cost approximately $100,000 dollars, give or take.
It’s the first song I recorded before I planned on doing an album and the most reflective of the original state I was in while writing these songs. It’s about people’s egos and how crazy it is to tell people how to live, decide who is bad or good, and the ridiculousness of our certainty that reality is anything but a shifting fabrication that we have all somehow agreed on.
7. “Burn It All Down”
Title says it all. Particularly enjoy this simmering saucy production, it is much chiller than I am.
8. “Follow Me”
My favorite song on the album. I love that it stayed close to the original folky vibe of its conception. It’s about coming to terms with personal trauma, recognizing the bittersweet gift in the experience, and closing the book on the past for good and moving onto forging a new reality…
9. “Brighter Day”
…Which leads us to “Brighter Day.” One part a song about unrequited love and another part reckoning with the disappointment of the crumbling expectation of the American Dream and how we get lost chasing outward artifacts to prove our worth. This feels like the one song that really got into the pocket and is the coolest wave to ride. And I learned what an EBow was!
10. “Still Sleeping”
Is this where I say I spent the past few years in some bizarre trippy fugue state where I felt like I existed in a hard-to-define ancient dream-reality, and if I went into more details I would be labeled cray? Anyway, that’s kind of what this song is.
11. “It’s So Nice”
OG version. This is where it all started, this little two-chord song I wrote while having a panic attack sitting in my living room staring out the window. It feels like the most pure thing I will ever write. It’s all downhill or bullshit or a desperate attempt to get back to this crystal clear and innocent moment from here on out.