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The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

Whimsical Eras of Love in ‘five seconds flat’ 


Singer-songwriter Lizzy McAlpine released her second studio but third overall album “five seconds flat” on April 8 of this year. She assembled 11 of the 14 tracks into a 29-minute film, which is divided into five parts and shares the same title. The 23-year-old captures the intense feelings of love, especially at a younger age.  

The film begins with high school scenes and McAlpine sitting on bleachers during what seems like marching band rehearsal. The first track of the album, “doomsday,” starts playing, which references the end of her relationship that’s in shambles already. She continues to go back to her lover in hopes that she gets control over ending the relationship. Her relentless optimism and idealization of her partner inhibits her from realizing that they’re not any good for her.  

She sings, “Doomsday is close at hand / I booked the marching band / To play as you speak,” meaning that she will do absolutely anything — have the band play loudly — to literally not hear her lover choosing to end the relationship. The end of the song portrays McAlpine with the painted face of a skeleton, a common theme throughout the film that, to me, signifies the death of a relationship.  

The next scene, the start of the film’s second part, shows McAlpine getting ready for a party with friends. The album’s ninth track, “what a shame,” plays for half a minute before the volume lowers and focuses on the conversations; the camera pans to different parts of the bedroom they’re all in. The lyrics “Please, take me home and kiss me slow / And do anything you want to” play while the camera shows a sign saying, “our rights are not up for grabs / neither are we,” which I found slightly ironic.  

As they enter the party, part of the album’s tenth track, “firearm,” plays. I really wish there was more of this song in the film because of the emotional intensity it radiates, with a calm and reflective tone in the first half turning into angry, edgy alternative rock-like music in the bridge. However, I see its relevance in this scene since one of the lines is, “I get drunk with my friends / Your name never comes up,” referencing the end of a relationship with someone who ‘slept with a firearm’ and caused McAlpine immense pain with the amount of power they had over her.  

A little bit of the album’s second track, “an ego thing,” plays next while showing scenes from the party like dancing and mingling. She sings, “you got angry / And said some angry words / It’s not that I hatе you / I hate that it hurt,” deflecting the blame from her partner.  

While attempting to get over her ex-lover, she gets drunk and sleeps with another person, as portrayed in the album’s third track, “erase me,” featuring Jacob Collier. “Now you’re fadin’ and I wonder who will erase me?” refers to her wondering who her ex-lover might move on with now that she’s trying to move on with the one she just slept with. It’s clear that she’s still caught up on her ex, so she exhibits insecurity regarding who might replace McAlpine.  

As the full track plays, scenes that seem to represent distractions are shown. There are some physically intimate and suggestive visuals along with visuals of partying, drinking, and sleeping. The viewer can really experience how stuck in her head McAlpine gets with these actions and thoughts. The end of the film’s second part also shows a glimpse of the skull face once again.  

The third part of the film is the album’s fifth track, “all my ghosts,” a more lighthearted song which presents a change of pace from the first half of the film. It now focuses on falling in love with someone new while also having the ‘ghosts’ of her exes with her. The song ends with a more positive outcome, with McAlpine being able to picture a wedding; she sings, “I can see it now / When all my ghosts disappear / I can see it crystal clear.” Scenes of her enjoying time with her new lover in a 7-Eleven play as we hear the song.  

The film’s fourth part starts with “reckless driving,” the album’s sixth track, which features Ben Kessler. I absolutely love the build-up that this song has from the beginning to its end. At this point of the film, however, only the first two verses and choruses play before it cuts off with a black screen. Then, a few seconds of “ceilings,” the eighth track on the album, plays as if it was on the radio while McAlpine and her lover are driving to her parents’ house.  

“reckless driving” is about a relationship that is one-sided and feels like an overwhelming amount of love for the receiver. In this case, her lover is the one who “can’t focus on the road when [McAlpine is] in [their] car.” She sings about the relationship spiraling because her partner is so mesmerized by her that they don’t pay attention to what happens around the two of them. “And now we’re at one eighty / … it’s over in a second, crashed the car into the tree / … You’d rather die than take your eyes off me,” are some of the most defining lines of the song. McAlpine makes it clear it’s one-sided when she says, “I don’t love you like that / I’m a careful driver.”  

“ceilings” is another song I wish had a longer time in the film. The orchestral instrumentals, especially towards the end, are beautiful, and they really make the listener reminisce and sit in heartache with her. It might also be referencing “reckless driving” with the lines, “But it’s not real / And you don’t exist / … It hits me in the car”; she’s thinking about a previous relationship instead of the person she’s currently with.  

McAlpine and her partner are talking with her family when she realizes the downfall of the relationship. The lover’s face shows up with a skull painting, and she immediately says, “I can’t do this anymore,” cutting to the bridge and end of “reckless driving.” She ends the song with, “one day it will kill us if I—”; the remaining words are supposed to be, “I don’t let go.” 

The next scene shows McAlpine walking on the same road as the “reckless driving” scenes with a bruise on her face. “weird,” the album’s seventh track featuring Laura Elliott, plays for a minute. Memories of her past relationships play in her head, and she looks distressed and rattled.  

The fifth and final part of the film starts with a shot of McAlpine and her first lover shown in the film. She starts singing “hate to be lame,” featuring FINNEAS and the eleventh track of the album. The soft tune at the beginning reflects the sweet scenes of the lovers like sitting in the grass and dancing in an empty building. The song grows in intensity, and clips of them together play back-to-back. The final scene of the film slows down and has a warm glow, and McAlpine and her lover share an intimate kiss. She sings, “Hate to be lame but I might love you.” 

The scene after the credits captures a comforting, calming, and heartwarming moment of McAlpine and the second lover slow dancing in an empty land with car headlights shining on them at dawn. It feels like they see each other as the only people in the world.  

The three tracks that didn’t make it into the film are “called you again,” “nobody likes a secret,” and “chemtrails.” It would have been nice to have all the songs incorporated, but I still think McAlpine did an outstanding job capturing the burning sensations of falling in and out of love through her music and visuals in the film. Five out of five crabs for “five seconds flat.” 

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Yukthi Sangoi, Editor-in-Chief
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