Blame It on Their Juice: The Year in Songs About Fruit
From peachy to rotten, we highlight seven tracks from 2019’s produce section.
Earlier this month, someone bought a banana for $120,000.
Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan took the limelight at Art Basel 2019 with his outrageous duct-taped banana and titled the Duchampian piece Comedian. Upon finishing his masterpiece, Cattelan explained how the end-product came to be: “In the end, one day I woke up and I said ‘The banana is supposed to be a banana.’” If I hadn’t already thought 2019 was one of the most zany years to pass, this moment in fruit-pop culture would have certainly solidified that.
Cattelan wasn’t the only artist to share the limelight with produce this year. Maybe we should’ve taken it as a sign late last year when they did surgery on a grape—or at least by this past summer, brought to you by White Claw—that fruit would play a significant role in popular culture in 2019, either as a the subject of balladry or as a projectile launched at the balladeer.
As symbols of abundance or temptation, we’ve been served a variety of juicy options. Maybe as a consequence of this year’s shittiness, pop culture has been searching for nourishment. Whether that pertains to a sense of moral purpose, undeniable pleasure, or a blooming self-confidence, performers have been looking to fruit as their symbol of choice lately. Ranging from Charli XCX’s formation of the punk band Nasty Cherry to FKA Twigs reconciling with her body’s limitations, fruit has been a subtle trend that pervaded music this year. Here’s a look at some of the most ripe (and rotten) tracks.
2019 has undeniably been the year of Lizzo. She was able to bring her 2017 single “Truth Hurts” to the top of the charts and released one of her most infectious songs to date: “Juice” is a funky romp about glowing up, inducing confidence from its opening shimmery guitar strum. She’s always endorsed self-love, and “Juice” is Lizzo’s ultimate ode to personal celebration. She isn’t flaunting herself in spite of her haters or to taunt jealous observers; she’s just doing her thing—her born-this-way thing, her baddest bitch thing. Her juice is the swagger. It’s the fruit that keeps on giving, allowing her to live luxuriously.
Kanye West, “Everything We Need”
Kanye got really into God this year. For better or for worse, his latest album Jesus Is King is a surplus of scripture-naming tracks. “Everything We Need,” one of its most hypocritical songs, features an angelic Ty Dolla $ign dismissing excess alongside Kanye. Out of a variety of head-scratching lyrics, the one that continues to bother me regards Eve and the forbidden fruit. “What if Eve made apple juice? You gon’ do what Adam do? Or say, ‘Baby, let’s put this back on the tree,’” West asks. Is he trying to modernize the way we might ignore human impulses by juicing the symbol for mortal sin? I think so? I guess modern culture has already been reduced to juice cleanses and green beverages.
Doja Cat, “Juicy”
In contrast to Lizzo, Doja Cat uses her juice to exude confidence in a more literal, bootylicious sense. Society either loves to exploit or ridicule curvy women, and Cat’s single is an antidote to the onslaught of body-shaming. “I keep it juicy, juicy / I eat that lunch,” she sings with a matter-of-fact flounce. The accompanying video is a pop-art feast of luscious fruit that mirrors her voluptuous qualities. It’s a fun song about embracing her natural fit.
FKA Twigs, “home with you”
FKA Twigs came out of the woodwork this year with one of 2019’s best albums, MAGDALENE. It explores personal suffering, recovery, and growth through religious motifs and otherworldly images. Its most disarming track, “Home With You,” hints at Twigs’s recent health struggles—fibroid tumors in her uterus. “For me, kind of being goofy and making light of things that are quite serious is a way of me processing trauma,” she explained. “I would call my tumors my fruit bowl of pain and I’d be like, ‘Okay, so I’ve got three cooking apples, four strawberries, you know?’ And, I’d do it in fruit. People would be like, ‘That’s so cute.’ And, I’d be like, ‘Yeah, but it hurts.’” “Apples, cherries, pain,” she sings on “Home With You,” lumping the fruit alongside her suffering. Her voice is extraterrestrial as she makes light of her reality. Here, fruit isn’t a sensuous item, but it is meant to be morosely humorous or playful, almost as a defense mechanism to cope with the damage to her womb.
Kevin Abstract, “Peach”
Before the release of Brockhampton’s fifth studio album GINGER, group leader Kevin Abstract released a solo album titled Arizona Baby. The track “Peach” stood out as tender fantasy for blissful and easy love. “It’s all peaches and cream,” fellow Brockhampton member Joba sings. The scrumptious image connotes a painless and transparent relationship, something that is light and soft. “If you left your love, I’ll be alright,” sings BH’s Bearface. The song is looking back on a young fling, imagining where they might be now. The fruit metaphor allows us to inhabit a saccharine daydream. If this past relationship had time to grow, the aftertaste might have been sweeter.
Alice Longyu Gao, “Dumb Bitch Juice” / “Rich Bitch Juice”
One of the more peculiar fruit-centric releases this year came from Alice Longyu Gao, who dropped two adjacent singles fitting the theme, the first about making mistakes and the second about sipping up one’s wealth. The twitchy, geckian tracks are ridiculous takes on the popular meme “dumb bitch juice,” and her underlying philosophies on both are quite simple: When you’re hanging around with fuck boys you’re drinking the former, and when you’re living your best life you’re chugging the latter. Gao really harps on impulsive consumption, easily swallowing stupid mistakes or big checks. Together, these tracks are a hedonistic testimony to human compulsions.
Harry Styles, “Watermelon Sugar”
Not only has he covered another track on this list, but after releasing his sophomore album Fine Line, Harry Styles has proven that he, too, is a fruit connoisseur. From 2017’s ludicrously fun “Kiwi,” he placed two fruit-focused tracks on his latest album, one being the euphoric “Watermelon Sugar.” Many were quick to note this vibrant single was an ode to oral pleasure, though Styles played coy in his interview with Zane Lowe. Or maybe it’s about one of his ex’s favorite literary picks. Why not both! Alas, whether he’s getting his sugar high from the local garden or someone else’s personal watermelon patch, Styles captures his obsessive allure with warped backing vocals and a jubilant brass section. “Strawberries on a summer evenin’ / Baby, you’re the end of June,” he sings, his voice filled with wistful charm. Here, Mr. Styles makes an excellent case for summer fruits in the middle of winter. FL