"Powa" by tUnE-yArDs

It can take a lot of courage to go against the grain and live life differently than what is the normal, or expected, way. It takes a different kind of courage to admit that you ache to be normal when you have convinced yourself that your alternative choices are the morally correct ones. Merill Garbus, the frontwoman of lo-fi art-pop duo tUnE-yArDs, confronts these conflicting feelings in the group’s 2011 minimalist classic “Powa.” Centered around themes relating to emotional and physical relationships, “Powa” is a portrait of the internal struggle between wanting to be a self-sufficient, independent woman, and the creeping desire to be taken care of and overpowered by a man. Alternating between telling herself that she is strong and different from the rest and pondering how it might be nice to let someone else take the wheel and take control of her, Garbus eventually succumbs to the idea of giving up control to another, not knowing why she is drawn to the idea, but acknowledging that it is what she wants, even if she doesn’t necessarily agree with it philosophically. 
Accompanied by bassist Nate Brenner, Garbus performs a strikingly simple percussion loop in addition to her duties on the ukulele. “Powa” is a great example of tUnE-yArDs’ simplistic musical style, consisting of slow, basic rhythms that provide plenty of room for Garbus’ voice, which has an incredible range that goes from soft and light to low and dominant, to experiment and jump from one vocal style to the next. While it may seem like a relatively simple song with rudimentary instrumentals and a generic chorus, “Powa” is a window into Garbus’ soul – a moral conundrum, an interesting glimpse into how one can lose an argument with themselves. Or can they?