LAUV’s Single ‘I Like Me Better’ Finds Success Year After Release


Pop-electric-folk inspired singer-songwriter and producer Ari Staprans Leff (better known by his stage name, LAUV) dropped his most recent single, I Like Me Better, all the way back on May 19 2017, but even one year later, its hype has not died down. So far, the song has gained over 130 million Spotify streams and risen from number 96 on the Billboard Hot 100 on Feb. 24 to number 72 in the most recent issue.

Leff has been interested in music since childhood and first picked up his affinity for playing the guitar at the remarkable age of 11. Having studied jazz music in high school before moving on to play electronic music, his style has evolved into a fresh, interesting blend of several genres, adding a delightful spin on the traditional pop heard on the radio. At 23 years old, he returned to writing the intensely personal love songs that he became infatuated with as young as his freshman year of high school, before he himself had had any sort of relationship.

Leff specifically cited I Like Me Better as a response to the recent trend of anti-romance pop songs surging in popularity.

“I see a lot of people who want to pretend, ‘I’ll never fall in love, I’m too cool,'” Leff said in a recent press release. “But, we all want to fall in love. My favorite thing is if I make something that at its core sounds classic and beautiful but the production [makes you say], ‘Oh, I haven’t heard that before.’ If I can accomplish both those things in the same song, it’s a great feeling.”

I Like Me Better not only serves as an antidote to mainstream cynicism when it comes to love, but also as a refreshing rejection of the hypersexualization saturating the music industry in today’s current climate. The song delivers a simple yet heartfelt message through few words, not wasting time on any sort of elaborateness, whether it be through the lyrics or the instrumentals, and instead focuses on communicating a universal sentiment through the statement, ‘I like me better when I’m with you’. Although the Leff’s intention seems to be romantic, given his assertions on the often more-than-friendly nature of his songs, I appreciate how the song can be interpreted to be referencing any sort of affection due to their lack of specificity.

The song feels both authentic and pure-intentioned in such an extreme contrast to many other pieces of its genre that it surprised me when I first gave it a listen; I assumed that reading the lyrics would reveal some hidden underside to its meaning, and was pleasantly proven wrong upon doing so. Looking beyond the lyrics, I Like Me Better is uptempo without feeling overpoweringly cheerful, perhaps due to the synth tune contrasting with the gentle singing style and chill beat, giving body to what otherwise could have been a bland and uninteresting ballad. Through these small quirks, the song is made very catchy when the unchanging lyrics and tune could have easily been a trap for the repetitiveness that plagues many pop albums. The song gives a sense of youthfulness and not quite innocence, but the good-intentioned mischief that comes with it; this feeds off of Leff’s inspiration for the song, as he chose to document his experiences as a college freshman moving to a big city and falling in love a mere two months after leaving home through it. Upon first listen of this song, I was immediately reminded of Texas summers spent running back and forth through lawn sprinklers and rolling down hills; it offers a sense of nostalgia for lazy days spent with friends and family, times filled with risky yet harmless decisions and miniature adventures made technicolor if only because of the company they were had in.

I’ll do some soul-bearing of my own, here: I tend to dread watching music videos. I often find them a melodramatic, gaudy, too-literal interpretation of the artist’s lyrics, but the video for I Like Me Better is one example where this prejudice simply does not hold up. The video is incredibly sweet and works well as a stand-alone story apart from the song, becoming a work of art when the two are paired together. It jumps back and forth between a young couple appearing to be in the middle of furthering their educations and themselves after they have aged well into what can reasonably be interpreted as retirement years — two periods of life idealized as full of free time to discover oneself and further one’s interests. Settings including a flat, a carnival, a bedroom decorated with white fairy lights, and a restaurant are shown repeatedly for both pairs, as well as motifs appearing in both segments such as a straw hat and a spire of pink cotton candy. This narrative documenting lifelong love unconventional in videos belonging to many artists similar to Leff furthers the authenticity and earnesty of the song. It gives the impression of a very gentle relationship, taking the fun and lack of seriousness often associated with summer flings and adding in longevity. The camera work is fast-paced, jumping from vignette to vignette  as though flipping through pages in a scrapbook of good memories, the hard times conveniently left out, as they often are when we remember past relationships. Bright colors fill each frame, characterizing each setting with a similar feel despite their differences.

I Like Me Better is a mood-lifter in the best sort of way, fitting many different everyday scenarios as well as working as a casual yet heartfelt reminder for any of your loved ones when needed. Whether you’re doing daily chores, taking a road-trip, hanging out on the beach or the park or in a hammock, or any other activity, Leff’s newest single is perfect for you.