What’s the artistic purpose of an interlude? Can it be heard apart from the album it's attached to the way a single can? Defined as “an intervening or interruptive period, space, or event made to allow listeners to recalibrate and create a thematically related bridge between songs,” an interlude is usually included to add depth and connectivity to an album. Occasionally, the interlude is more memorable than the full-length songs, and it’s worth examining why.
As the indulgent person that I am, I seek out these tiny, less-than-a-minute long essences of songs and play them again and again until my itch to hear it has been scratched. Interludes always appear at the perfect time, but are hard to list and even harder to search for (what even counts as an interlude?).
To me, an interlude is an absolute. The most delicate, vulnerable point in a project. It’s also often the sweetest, most ecstatic spot in the record that leaves the listener wanting more, like Cheetos fingers at the bottom of a bag. It's often all fluff, cotton candy in song-form, and its swift ending is what makes it so desirable. I’ve noticed a similar trend in the 15-30 TikTok songs we all love – songs that frequently don’t measure up to their hype when heard in their long-form. So, for my terminally-online friends, for my twitter finger friends, and for my friends who’s lack of an attention span is the reason songs nowadays are getting shorter and shorter, these interludes are for you.
*Note* Some of the best interludes in history have come, predictably, from mega-stars like Drake, Frank Ocean and Rihanna, who are able to capture a feeling like no other. To combat redundancy, I’ve drawn from a healthy mix of the classics and lesser known material.
Turnstile’s 2021 Glow On was a hardcore, punk-rock successs that transcended the narrow genre with its mass appeal and landed the band on Jimmy Kimmel and gained universal renown in the music community. The newcomers were welcomed into the ranks of hardcore legends by even the stingiest of old-heads and classics loyalists. The interlude, “No Surprise”, is a soft and thoughtful pause between crashing cymbals, electric guitar and the general extremism of the album. A melodic keyboard plays in the background as a contemplative, echoing Brendan Yates sings, “Look around/ Is it windows or a mirror that you're looking out?/ Underground/ We're swinging and we're missing with the lights off”. The “It” factor of Turnstile seems to be their ability to justify their hardcore rock with palpable feeling infused into the lyrics. Glow On turned me into a longtime fan and when I heard the perfectly paired “No Surprise”, floating lightly among the heaviness and noise of the rest of the album, I was immediately transformed into a fan of the record.
“could cry just thinking about you” appeared as an interlude in Troye’s 2020 EP In a Dream. From a self-aware yet absolutely biased perspective, this 51 second masterpiece is quite honestly one of the most beautiful sounds my two ears have ever heard. The feelings of longing and affection transmuted over the acoustic track is the stuff of fairytales. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the song synced into the most tender portion of a romance film, maybe a 50 Shades sequel. Because of the fanfare it accrued (Troye fans are powerful and passionate), Sivan released the full version of the song in the summer of 2021. However, the full version seems to fall flat of the same magic the interlude has. I guess it’s true that sometimes less is more.
The Growlers have a consistency in their unique sound that is both dependable and unmistakable. “The Fruit Is For Everyone” is the last track on the 2013 album Hung At Heart, an album so impeccably named that it became a core memory of mine (I was only an impressionable junior in high school when this album dropped). The sitar that makes appearances throughout the jingling, percussion-filled album gets its own song to wrap everything up in a tidy bow. Albeit, this song may not count as an interlude because there’s no song after it, but I digress.
I can confidently say that “tellmewhatuwant” by the 20 year old hyperpop sensation is NOT an interlude- but it feels more like an interlude than anything else. If you listen to the rest of his discography, the contrast of his choppier, harsher music paired against the soft persistence of a single melody in “tellmewhatuwant” is even more compelling evidence. This song floats on an electric guitar with one simple addictive chord progression as he adds drama with his vocals. Aldn captures a nostalgic sense of past and present in this song that has had me reeling since I heard it.
The iconic beginning of this song is built by multiple altered layers of Miguel’s voice, and stands as one of the Hallmark sounds of Miguel’s brand. The entirety of 2010’s All I Want Is You will go down in the RnB hall of fame, but “Girl With The Tattoo” stands out as one of the most raw and beautiful masterpieces in the body of his work.
The Weeknd takes self-indulgence to another level in his “Stargirl Interlude” when he anoints Lana Del Rey as the “Stargirl” to his imagined “Starboy”. The intensity of the opening beat and the drama that Lana’s voice introduces to the song perfectly compliments the fading croons coming from The Weeknd. The song is slightly melancholy, edgy and thematic. I can’t help but feel a sense of anticipation every time I hear it, as The Weeknd bridges us into the second half of the album that launched him into superstardom.
22, A Million is Bon Iver’s impressionistic expression of his realization that he’s on the “wrong path”, so to speak. The record, prior to this song, is filled with existential questions, going back and forth between the familiar soft folk sound he’s known for in his previous work, and this really grand, dark, soundscape that feels like it might swallow you if you listen too hard. Bon Iver has been rambling about god and identity and confusion, and then we get to the “Moon Water” interlude and it slams on the breaks. Iver moves from his head to his gut. He says simply that the “math” of life is “moon water” and the science of everything is just witchcraft, or alternatively, nonsensical. Rather than expound on that idea lyrically, Iver chooses to lean into the heavy and glitchy soundscape that climatically deconstructs the song he began with, until it’s unrecognizable. “Moon Water” builds into a giant swell of pain, fear, confusion and tension, and then releases beautifully into the next track, “8 (circle)”. As quoted by the musician and Bon Iver stan Kiefer Detrick, “the cool thing about Moon water (and the album in general) is that it’s abstract enough to where you sort of end up projecting your own struggle, whatever path you’re on, onto it, and it’s like sonic therapy. It’s a healing experience to hear this record reach its boiling point and then spill over into a calm sigh of relief”.
I was reminded of this iconic interlude by – what else – a TikTok trend using Paramore. “I’m Not Angry Anymore” is one of three interludes on the 2013 self-titled punk album. What makes this interlude the most remarkable of the bunch is the lyrics; betrayal, heartbreak, and (not quite) acceptance. Paramore’s wildly relatable interlude is played acoustically on a (is that a ukulele I’m hearing?) and sung by a resigned Haley Williams.
“Summers Over” starts with abrupt drum breakdown and relies on the pining, belting falsettos from Majid Jordan as he concludes both summer and a relationship in his melancholy lyrics. Ironically, Views was released in April of 2016, not at the end of the season. That didn’t stop the album from becoming a college town favorite, and I fondly remember riding my bike through University housing, singing along to “Summers Over” at the top of my lungs as it played from the balconies of student apartments. No one relates to the end of a summer quite like school kids, and this gem will always have a special place in our hearts.
With all the new Kanye content going around, I thought it was only right to highlight one of the few musical interludes in his discography. This interlude was made to segue audiences to the dramatic horns and upped tempo on “All Of The Lights” while keeping the same base key progressions. The song is truly instrumental heaven, and the sharpness of the keys are complemented by the crispness of the violin. The song is simple and belies the depth of the song that follows.
You can also find more great interludes in this playlist!