Aromanticism & the Flowery, Lovesome Loneness of Moses Sumney’s Identity

We all anticipated the dreamy foliage of Moses Sumney’s voice to offer a stunning debut with his first studio album Aromanticism. But the 11-track LP is really like an audio-theater show into the bliss and complexities of life as an aromantic. The ethereal vocalist and musician told The FADER, “I was in my apartment in 2014. I found the word [aromanticism] online, and was like, Wait, this sounds like exactly what I’ve been thinking and feeling.” He continued by playfully admitting his familiarity with (accurate, for the record) WebMD-self diagnoses, but knows his romantic orientation is intrinsically designed so that his most happy and healthy self thrives without the desire for romantic affection. To most, this sounds sad or strange even, but listening to the conversation between Moses’ inner (“Quarrel”) and outer (“Doomed”) selves in the lyrics, there’s a certain floral hue in this darkness.

On “Quarrel” Moses chants in a warmingly husky hum, “We can not be lovers, ‘long as I’m the other,” expressing an incompatibility on views of love while underlyingly assessing this truth’s presence in friendship. It should be understood that while aromantic men and women do not experience romantic attraction or emotion, no two aros are exactly alike and some are capable of (nonromantic) love, (platonic) emotional intimacy and even sexual desires. Now that society has caught up on the spectrum of sexual orientation, it’s a good time to start conversations surrounding the romantic orientation spectrum. With romantic love being the goal or happy ending to literally everything from toddlerhood (think doll babies, Disney movies and M.A.S.H.) through adulthood, Moses (and all aros) are othered simply because they don’t derive any pleasure from romantic intimacy. As an admitted romantic, I found the clarity of Sumney’s introspection serving as a mirror in ways. The intense yearning for solitude in “Don’t Bother Calling,” and the occasional craving for contact with enough comfortable space and the full understanding that there are limits plainly stated in “Make Out in My Car” hit home. The California-based crooner’s ability to share each track’s mini-monologue in various, vividly melodic wrappings (some lamenting the darkness, others candidly revealing lace-like intentions that adorn self-intimacy) is an unmatched communication style itself.

Moses has candidly shared his belief that the capitalism machine is what really drives romance. And to piggy back that point, the fact that romance itself is so subjective (not everyone likes expensive chocolates, some find quality time at home more romantic than a candlelit dinner or pricey jewelry), means it shouldn’t be too hard to conceive people being emotionally unmoved by it. But with romance specifically and the many layers that come with identity in general, Moses generously offers a glimpse into the self-contending bravery it takes to honor your happiness no matter how “broken” it appears. And while the song’s aren’t necessarily odes to independence, their sentiments are a far cry from a call for a savior or hero. These songs are instead an exploration of the disconnect from society’s themes that focus more on the freedom to romantically love whoever you want to than on the freedom not to romantically love at all. Still, Sumney’s performance isn’t dedicated to anti-romance. It’s the testimony of an intentionally lone resonance that is as valid and multiplex as the romance-obsessed culture it exists in. This is also represented in the LP’s visual for “Lonely World” where Moses Sumney rescues a mermaid who aims to kill him. From my view, the mermaid played by the enchantingly lovely Sasha Lane symbolizes Sumney’s own rare reality and how he wrestles with loving it and being taken out by it simultaneously.

We talk a lot about the importance of representation and Aromanticism feels like the dawn of new visibility for aros. Moses Sumney’s resplendent debut album is what it looks like to be young, gifted, Black and aromantic. You can listen to the album below, watch the “Lonely World” visual above and order the album vinyl here.

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