Melina Duterte on Hardship and Hard Work

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Courtesy of Jaclyn Ulman

Jay Som writes about her struggles and hardships in her new album “Everybody Works”

Amelia McBain, Contributing Writer

“Everybody Works,” the most recent album by Melina Duterte (released under the pseudonym Jay Som), is the perfect record for every NYU student studying, working and following their passions all at once. It’s romantic, patient and personal, weaving together feelings of anger, exhaustion and a need to keep pushing through. “Everybody Works” is also stylistically diverse and hard to fit into exactly one genre. Duterte’s bedroom pop is influenced by pop icon Carly Rae Jepsen, disco gods Earth, Wind & Fire and legendary jazz musician George Benson — all of whose influence you can hear in her bright pop hooks, funky riffs and groovy beats. Though each song carries a different sound, they’re all tied together through Duterte’s pretty, soft vocals and the specific layering of her instruments.

Though “Everybody Works” can be bleak sometimes, Duterte’s album has a real-life happy ending: she no longer has to work a conventional job and is writing music and touring full-time. Duterte is currently on her second tour for the album and she’s playing at The Bowery Ballroom Sept. 21 with lo-fi band Stef Chura and NYU student Sophie Allison, known musically as Soccer Mommy.

“It’s honestly a dream come true,” Duterte said. “It’s not easy, but it’s definitely better than working a part-time job. It’s what I’ve always wanted.”

“Everybody Works” was written during a hectic three-week period last year, which is impressive since each song seems so deliberately arranged.

“I had just moved to a new apartment and holed myself in for three weeks. I spent every waking hour just working on it,” Duterte said. “It felt like I worked too much and not enough because three weeks is a really short amount of time. It was still a fun experience; it was all new to me.”

Though the album’s sound is bright and has an upbeat quality to it, a lot of the lyrics reflect Duterte’s struggle and hardship. In the titular song “Everybody Works,” Duterte sings about her fight with juggling everything: “Try to make ends meet / Penny pinch ‘til I’m dying / Everybody works.” She sings along with backup vocals a repetition of “everybody works,” a representation of the monotony of the daily grind. She claims, in her frustration, “You don’t want to / See me like this.” She also sings about the emotional work involved in supporting those you love in “Baybee,” layering the lyrics “If I leave you alone when you don’t feel right / I know we’ll sink for sure” over dreamy synths and funky bass lines.

When asked if it felt strange to sing about such personal topics in front of packed crowds, Duterte responded, “I don’t think it’s that weird because the people that are coming sort of know what they’re getting into and they’re usually always very respectful. I appreciate that.”

And for Duterte’s advice for those working, studying and pursuing their dreams?

“Keep working hard,” Duerte said. “You’re trying to be healthy mentally and physically at the same time and it’s very hard, but you have to find some motivation to keep getting better. Also, don’t complain when there’s no need to complain — recognizing your privileges and the position that you have is very important, too. Maybe somehow, through hard work or luck, you can find pockets of success in many aspects of your life.”

Tickets for the Jay Som, Soccer Mommy and Stef Chura show on Sept. 21 are up on bowerypresents.com.

Email Amelia McBain at [email protected]