Grouplove’s “Tongue Tied” May Outlast Us All

The Glee smash turned alt-radio hit is—somehow—still a certified pop jam

Music Features Grouplove
Grouplove’s “Tongue Tied” May Outlast Us All

If you spend too much time on the internet (more specifically, Twitter), you’ve probably seen a certain Bernie Sanders meme dozens of times over this election season. Borrowed from a campaign fundraising clip, the screencap features Sanders pleading with his supporters, “I am once again asking for your financial support.” In meme format, the image has been pasted over with a number of humorous commands. In late January, one Twitter user saw it as an opportunity to reminisce on a favorite 2010s indie pop gem:

This, of course, is referring to the song “Tongue Tied,” a single from indie-pop/rock band Grouplove’s 2011 debut album, Never Trust A Happy Song, an especially funny title considering 75% of the album is jubilant, at times outrageous, folk-pop that rarely feels dishonest. The song itself could have come across as an aimless assortment of sweet nothings: Lyrics like “I’ll get real high / slumber party, pillow fight” and “Marmalade, we’re making out” might imply another “Last Friday Night”-style keg anthem.

So almost 10 years after its release, you may not be interested in resurrecting this relic from the “hipster” era, but “Tongue Tied” is actually a bit of a rarity for a few reasons, even still today. Grouplove, feverishly fronted by husband/wife pair Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi, are releasing their fourth LP, HEALER on Friday, so, please, take me to your best friend’s house, and take some time to remember why this song is such a banger.

It’s pretty rare for a rock song to forgo verses and open right off the bat with the chorus, but that’s what “Tongue Tied” did, giving it a unique immediacy. The initial command to “take me to your best friend’s house” was more of an invitation to get off one’s feet and flail around for a few minutes—that’s the kind of chaotic energy this song inspired in 2011. Hooper’s spoken-word interlude, in which she coyly counts up to four and encourages us to “bump the beats ‘till beddy-bye,” feels ambiguously queer, if only for its casual coalescence of a non-judgemental tone and buoyant dance beats. Much like the show that made it famous, “Tongue Tied,” with all its innocent silliness, popcorn hooks and PG-13-rated, decidedly uncool ideas about partying, felt—and still feels like—a party anthem for outsiders. Hooper’s Hayley Williams-like delivery certainly helped things.

But as much as some of us would like to take credit for stumbling across “Tongue Tied” in some shiny corner of Tumblr, in reality, you probably heard this song in the same place as everyone else: during the penultimate episode of Glee’s season three. During this episode, titled “Nationals,” our favorite William McKinley misfits return home from a national choir competition with an enormous trophy. Upon walking back through the double doors, they begin a rendition of “Tongue Tied” that rivals the original in terms of peppiness (Lea Michele’s overzealous Rachel Berry was involved, after all). The cool kids throw confetti instead of their usual slushies. Mr. Schuester and Ms. Pillsbury finally do the hanky-panky. Everyone smiles. It’s a Glee mirage for the ages (Even better than their punky version of another alt-rock hit, “Dog Days Are Over?” Not quite. But still, magical.) In case you need a refresher:

So was it this joyful portrayal on Glee that made “Tongue Tied” such a sensation? Or was the song itself enough to help Grouplove climb to the number three spot on the Billboard rock charts during the summer of 2012? The former is probably more likely, but that doesn’t change the fact that nearly 10 years later, the song “Tongue Tied” still gets a crowd—at least of a certain age—going like almost nothing else. For Millennials and Zoomers who scoped the alternative charts on iTunes and excitedly downloaded Glee soundtracks throughout the early 2010s, this song is nothing short of an incredibly important artifact.

While they’ve never quite topped the tempting chaos of “Tongue Tied” on one of their proceeding albums, it’s my absolute pleasure to report that Grouplove remains one of the most fun festival acts around. No one in the band is still at any point during a show, which is even more impressive when you consider Hannah and Christian often tour with their small and likely energetic daughter. At their sunset Shaky Knees set last May, a crowd of thousands screamed every lyric of “Tongue Tied,” from the opening “WOOOO!” to the fits of “Don’t wave goodbye,” right back at the band like they’d been singing them every day of their lives. Maybe you don’t hear it outside of the occasional retail environment, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t throw it on during your next house party. Everyone will exchange slightly startled looks before realizing they, too, still know every word.

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