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Music Review: Tegan and Sara – Sainthood

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Being a heterosexual female, the lyrics of the twin sister lesbian duet of Tegan and Sara Quin can sometimes be difficult to relate to in my own personal life.

When I saw Tegan and Sara live in 2007, I found myself in a crowd full of homosexuals, with women loving each other right and left while jamming out to their T & S licks. While I wasn’t intimidated and did not question my love for Tegan and Sara as artists, I started to question relating the lyrics to my everyday life.

This holds true when listening to their new album, Sainthood, released October 27. While listening to Sainthood, I was challenged to really feel the music because it contains more regressive, lesbian-rockish, emo tunes. Three listens in, however, was all it took to catch my interest. I haven’t stopped listening and questioning the meaning of the album since.

Sainthood’s focus, to me, seems primarily on the obsession of heartbreak. The title itself is a bit ironic, considering the controversial background of Tegan and Sara writing about women loving women. Despite the gossiping celebrity rumors I have heard of one of them going through a breakup, it is clear that they are trying to discover their secular culture: as women, as lesbians, and as pop culture icons.

A lesser focus of this album also relates back to unrequited love. The song “Northshore” touches base with this, using the verb “don’t” over 50 times throughout the uppity, faster rock song to reveal a deeper sense of emotional ties being broken with haste. The lyrics also reveal the artists’ devotion to the addiction of being with someone you are in love with, which aids in broadening their appeal to a more general audience.

“Night Watch” struck me with a lot of interest the first time I heard it. The beginning lyrics mention divorce, which has been a growing topic on my mind because my 25-year married parents are currently battling one out. The song’s lyrics “I’ve got grounds for divorce/it’s in my blood this divorce” bring light to the fact that some relationships cannot last through thick and thin, and that sometimes it’s better to do what’s blood thick as compared to the right choice.

The song “Paperback Head” surprised me, for it does not tune into the pathetic romance the rest of Sainthood seems to convey. Instead, it relates the idealistic view of stardom to the negative, insisting that pleasing the crowd isn’t always the best thing. Tegan and Sara use the term paperback (book) to show how flexible and materialistic becoming a star can make you: “you have to become what your fans see/paperback head, you get carried away.” This album seems a general representation of their desire to sing from their heart, and not necessarily to their fans.

Overall, Sainthood relates Tegan and Sara’s devotion to their fans to a love affair. Similar to the pressure to please a lover in a relationship, Sainthood seems to be the rebel child of Tegan and Sara’s music, conquering the stereotypical broken relationship — whether with people or with the church — and turning it into art.

Sainthood ends with the track “Someday”, an empowerment for women of all kinds to take charge of. “Mark my words, I might be something someday.”

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About Courtney Murphy

  • Nicole

    Did you listen to the album before you wrote this review? Doesn’t seem like it.

  • bw

    I love lesbian rock! Particularly Canadian twin lesbian rock. So much better than heterosexual male non-twin rock.

    What’s the categorization for a band with BOTH heterosexual and homosexuals members? Homo-Hetero hybrid rock.

  • Well, I see it as a kind of strategy which in the long run may have misfired – the point being that flamboyance and outrageousness are but cheap surrogates for true creativity.

  • No problem. If you want a classic example of how gays have devolved when it comes to style, I need only mention one… Perez Hilton.

  • Well, I kinda thought so but stranger things have happened. People change and often not for the better. So I hope you didn’t mind my posing the question.

  • Oh, Roger. I was being facetious.

  • Sorry, Silas, but that’s just as ignorant a statement as any that issues from the mouth of the worst homophobe. The gays don’t have any monopoly on creativity anymore than the straights do – although it’s understandable that the motivation to stand out and “outdo” the heterogeneous folk is an ever-present factor.

    At any rate, equating gayness with greater creative impulse is at best a dubious proposition, more telling of the underlying insecurity, and that’s the notion of “gay pride” notwithstanding – than anything else. A true sense of self-confidence and self-assurance needs no advertising, and that applies to both gays and straights. So I do hope your comment was more in jest than true expression of your beliefs.

    And Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

  • Straight people just don’t have an ear for good music and the arts — they need a lot of direction. That’s why there are gay people. Where would you be without your hairdresser, florist, interior decorator or pastor?

    I just love Thanksgiving humor.

  • Emily

    This review is wack. It’s ironic for lesbians to write about sainthood? Straight people can’t enjoy the same music as gay people? what the shit?

  • Tam


    (or wait, I can type again what everybody already typed) (LOVE, NOT GAY, LOVE)(Wait, next comment, type it again) (it’s not clear yet)

    And haha dude, we are not interested in your personal life. I can’t believe that’s a good strategy to write a good review..

    (BAD REVIEW) (In case people would still think it’s a good one) (.. you never know)

  • chels

    this article is outrageous. outrageously wrong. how can you even judge an album for everyone being so damn close-minded? it’s just sick. this is a beautiful album and it inspired me in so many ways, their music is not “gay” so how about you just don’t listen to them because they deserve more respect than anyone should ever give you. And you probably cannot relate because you have a cold heart and are completely incapable of human emotions.

  • patty

    agreed with everyone above, this is the worst review ever.

  • k

    Why does knowing their sexual orientation change anything about how you perceive their songs? They are not only usually about a pretty universal topic but also are never gender-specific. They literally lack pronouns. There are maybe two songs where if you knew they were queer, you’d have a much deeper understanding of what the song was about. Anyway, what is it about gay love you feel is not like straight love? Or gay heartbreak vs. straight heartbreak?

    Also, I’m trying to find the more “regressive, lesbian-rockish, emo tunes” that you identify as being in this album. In my ears, it’s more of a throwback to earlier pop music genres than anything else.

  • b

    This is just a horrible review.

  • Emily

    Really? Tegan and Sara don’t write gay music, their lyrics are about relationships in general. Sara has been quoted before, “It’s so important that people understand that we’re women and that we’re gay, but our music is not a woman. Our music is not a gay woman. It’s music.”
    And the lyrics as seen in the Sainthood liner notes for Paperback Head read “You have to become what you fancy.”

  • WOW.

    To even begin to say their homosexuality is the reason for having any concerns with their music is completely homophobic. What exactly is the difference between rock and lesbian-rock anyway? I noticed you did not actually point out anything that segregated their music as “homosexual” I’m straight and I love all of their music.
    They’re not singing about gay love they’re singing about love in general, an EXTREMELY universal topic and easily related to. Perhaps you cannot relate because you are incapable of human emotions.

  • Lee

    I wish I hadn’t stumbled upon this rediculous review. I am not gay, but relate to every song I’ve loved from this band because they write about a universal topic, LOVE.

  • what the what

    tegan and sara write gay songs? how the hell did i not notice

  • hannah

    i’m pretty sure this is the most ridiculous article i have read in a long time.

  • “Being a heterosexual female, the lyrics of the twin sister lesbian duet of Tegan and Sara Quin can

    they don’t write about being lesbians… they write about love. you don’t have to be gay to relate to their music. it’s sad to see such a homophobic and sexist article; especially knowing that a woman wrote this.

    also, they are not a “duet” (i think you mean “duo”.. they are a band).

  • Sarah


    “Being a heterosexual female, the lyrics of the twin sister lesbian duet of Tegan and Sara Quin can sometimes be difficult to relate to in my own personal life.”

    I’m pretty sure that is the most ridiculous statement I have read in a long time.

  • Joseph

    This is the dumbest article I have ever read