The Making of An Anthem
by Daniel Hess
What is your song? What is that one piece of music that you can hear over and over again? I bet that, in an instant, you could close your eyes and have a smile across your face just thinking about it. Could you call this your anthem? An anthem is by definition a rousing or uplifting song identified with a particular group, body, or cause. That song that you instantly hear and blare at maximum volume. So now that we have some context from the psychology of music, let's go one step further. Where does this connection come from for you?
The song that has stuck with me for the latter part of my adult life to date has to be "Sunset Lover" by Petit Biscuit. Turning the questions above on myself, I can wonder why and maybe think that "it's amazing," but that's too easy. Considering the factors that led to this song becoming so prevalent in my life since I first discovered it. I'm pretty sure my story of the perfect tune has at least some parallels to your own song.
However, before we take this deep dive, let's talk about who this artist is. Petit Biscuit, or little biscuit if you prefer some translation, is the stage name of Mehdi Benjelloun, who was born November 10, 1999, in Rouen, France. He was born the son of a Moroccan father and French mother. Growing up, Benjelloun became familiar with instruments such as piano, cello, bass, and guitar. He favored electro house sounds as he continued on his musical journey and felt he could produce unlimited styles and combinations of music.
But why 'Petit Biscuit'? Trust me, for a long while, I wondered as well. The story goes that he loved his grandmother's French pastries. Whenever he would eat the confectionary treats, in particular the biscuits, his grandmother would pat him on the head and say "I love you, my little biscuit," and the saying stuck. so much so that even his at-the-time girlfriend would say the same thing. The name stuck and thus Petit Biscuit was born.
Like many other young artists in the 2010's, Petit Biscuit released his early tracks on SoundCloud. After a little while, he was noticed by distributor Electro Pose, which would go on to publish the single "Sunset Lover," on June 15th, 2015. It currently has over 170 million views on YouTube and 560 million streams on Spotify as of the writing of this article.
Now that you know a little bit more about who Petit Biscuit is, let me paint a picture of my life way back in the simpler time of early 2014. I had what could arguably be called the largest breakup of my life then. After a tumultuous 7 years with my high school sweetheart (through infidelity, lies, you name it), I was lost. My sense of identity was so tied up with this other person. The first and biggest change in my life was a change in my musical taste. As a kid of the '90's, I grew up with alternative rock/grunge ruling my world- Blink-182 and The Offspring were at the top for me. As I transitioned into high school, I found Gorillaz (still a favorite), Daft Punk and eventually rap/screamo.
Once I started dating my eventual ex, I was introduced to the deep catalogue of Fall Out Boy, and we shared a connection to this punk-pop group from Chicago. In fact, I am still a fan now. This became my musical world for a while, but after my breakup, I needed a new sound. Enter what you could call 'EDM' and electronica. This cacophony of sound was like this wave of warmth washing over my soul. It felt so great to hear a song with this big rise until a peak with an amazing drop- it was addictive to be honest.
While this music style is great for a quick adrenaline hit, it was never anything substantial that was really helpful long-term for me. I still found myself having restless nights, yearning for something more in my life. I had the groundwork. but still nothing seemed to stick as my go-to that would help me in my lowest moments. That is, until I heard the song "Sunset Lover," while browsing stations on SiriusXM.
The moment I heard it, I was transported. I was taken away from my heartache, my despair. It felt as though something was calling out to me. When I returned home that night, I found the song on Spotify and listened to it over and over. I picked up the vinyl and would just play it at night when I couldn't sleep. This was the first song I felt was completely my own in over eight years at this point.
On April 15th, 2017, I actually had the pleasure of seeing Petit Biscuit live at Rough Trade in New York City. The concert was a small one, maybe 100 people max and I was up front, inches away from Benjelloun, who put on an amazing show. For me, it was a solo adventure by bus from Baltimore to New York. and it felt like a great pilgrimage to see an artist who had such a deep impact on my life.
Many of you reading this may have already stopped to listen to the song, or perhaps you have heard it before, but if not, what could be the best way to describe this song? It's like a beautiful melancholic upbeat symphony of vocal samples to dance to as you watch the sunset. It is - for a less poetic definition - a mix between what is know as tropical electronic and chillstep. I feel like that was just a lot of jargon, but think of tropical music stylings as a warm musical blanket that can easily transport you to your favorite warm island beach. It is designed to uplift the soul with an easy BPM (beats per minute), between 100 to 120 typically.
If you find that you like this sound, the entire 2016 self-titled album follows in the same stylings. It is only 5 tracks long, but each has this warmth that can so quickly be missing in most electronic production. Other highlights of the album include "Once Again," and "Full Moon," but you can't go wrong with anything on the record, really.
Fast forward to now, and Benjelloun is still going strong. His most recent album, Parachute, was released in October 2020. While I would say that he has branched out by featuring singers and other electronic artists, I still feel those warm roots that I experienced in 2015. I'm glad to see that he is experimenting with different styles of electronic music production but not straying too far outside of anything either. Has another song hit me as much as "Sunset Lover," did? No, but I am so thankful that I found my anthem that day.
As time has gone forward in my life, I shared this song countless times. For any of my friends that have gone through a hard moment in life or those just looking for some positivity, it is the first thing I send to them along with a message that I would like to pass on here. If everyone will indulge me reading this article now, could I ask you for a quick favor? Take a moment, pause at this sentence and go listen to the song, then come back to read on.
We fight a new battle every day. It might not seem fair; it might not seem like you're getting ahead. Today might be the worst day of your entire existence on this planet so far, but you know what that means, right? That means the only way to go from here is up, and the only way to climb is one step at a time. It may seem overwhelming, and the temptation to give up will be strong some days, but you can't because you are stronger than you give yourself credit for. Every time you feel down or lost, remember these words and remember that song. It is always there. Tomorrow will be a brighter day, you just have to take that step and the next time you see the sun setting, remember to smile because you are on the verge of a beautiful new day to come.
Now, you might not have had a breakup or needed to have this hardcore shift in your musical taste in life, but what I can be sure of is that you've had that moment at some time in your life. The moment a song comes on at a random moment or by chance, and it just sticks. That one thing that will help brighten up your day no matter what.
In this crazy time that we live in, I think we all need more songs that uplift us. Music has this power to bring us closer together, and in a time of greater division than ever before, we need so much more of this.
So, if you haven't listened to your anthem in a little while, stop what you're doing and go put that song on. If you don't have that song yet that resonates with you, might I suggest giving "Sunset Lover" a try. It is a dark time for so many of us, and I hope I might have reaffirmed that there is still positivity to be found all around. Turn up that anthem as I turn up mine.
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