Song of the Week delves into the newest songs we just can’t get out of our heads. Find these tracks and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist, and for our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, Angel Olsen brings us to a smoky cabaret for her expansive new track, “Nothing’s Free.”
“Here it comes,” coos Angel Olsen at the onset of her stunning new track “Nothing’s Free.” She then immediately describes the feeling of bursting outward, of breaking out of “that old cell, the one you though would keep you safe” — of being, essentially, vulnerable and raw.
But none of this arrives with cathartic fanfare, loud guitars, or sweeping high notes. Instead, Olsen and her band edge slowly along the abyss, melting like butter with each chord change. The track arrives as the first single off Olsen’s upcoming EP, Forever Means (out April 14th), which found its origins in the sessions of Olsen’s expansive 2022 album, Big Time. The consuming feeling of “Nothing’s Free” aligns perfectly with the majesty of Big Time, and it’s fitting that the song overlapped with those sessions.
But “Nothing’s Free” also lives in an alternate, noir-esque universe; guided by a warm piano and a saxophone shrouded in reverb, Olsen channels an aging cabaret singer imparting her wisdom on an indifferent crowd. You’d think a chorus with the phrase “Nothing’s free/ Like breaking free” would be sung with complete abandon, and yet, she utters these words with a hushed, jazzy lilt and a significant amount of weight — almost like she longs to break free as she once had, and cannot find it in her to do it once more.
This emotional conflict is what drives “Nothing’s Free.” As Olsen reminds us “I’m broken down for you like no one else,” there is a complete and utter surrender in that simple idea. So much so that she abstains from vocals after the phrase, letting a wistful sax solo and extended instrumental outro say what she cannot. With its evocative, cinematic slow-burn, “Nothing’s Free” is a gorgeous reminder that a patient bloom can be just as liberating as throwing it all out on the table.
It’s also an example of where Olsen is headed artistically — with a sound that references similar (albeit less country-focused) classic artists acknowledged in Big Time, “Nothing’s Free” is exciting new ground for her to demonstrate her intimate, captivating songwriting.
Sometimes breaking free can be small and solemn, and sometimes it can feel like the weight of the world is bursting out of you. “Nothing’s Free” contains both, and when she arrives with the warning, “Here it comes,” we, too, are ready to break free.
— Paolo Ragusa