The Virality Of ‘Please, Please, Please’ Blurs The Lines Between Artist & Audience

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“Heart break is one thing, my ego’s another/I beg you don’t embarrass me, motherfucker”
These lines from Sabrina Carpenter's latest single “Please, Please, Please” have officially become my earworm of the season, on repeat as I bop along to work or run errands.
A captivating blend of pop and beautiful vocals with a touch of wry, vaguely threatening humour, "Please, Please, Please" is the second single from Carpenter's upcoming Short n’ Sweet album. Apart from being a great song, its music video has helped cement its virality with a ‘Bonnie and Clyde’-esque storyline starring Carpenter and her real-life boyfriend, Barry Keoghan (of Saltburn). 
There’s something undeniably iconic about a rising young artist hard-launching her relationship in a song where she pleads with a partner not to embarrass her. “Please, Please, Please” is an incredibly strong follow-up single to “Espresso” and as both songs continue to dominate the charts, the internet has embraced the lyrics and music video to turn them into a flood of relatable content. 
My TikTok For You Page has been video after video of creators lip-syncing to that unforgettable line. Many are standing next to their boyfriends, playfully begging them not to embarrass them by acting like a jerk. But as I got deeper into the FYP trend algorithmic loop, I began to notice different threads interpreting the same line. 
One focuses on the classic scenario of a girl who has either actively hard-launched a relationship with a guy or is contemplating it while wrestling with the anxiety of the relationship going south after making it public. This interpretation feels close to the original vein of the song, but then the road diverges. 
Some creators are reflecting on the anxiety of being in long-term relationships and doing “wife duties” such as maintaining the home while on "girlfriend salary”, only to worry about overinvesting in a relationship that their partner might want to end. As @killakushla puts it, “when you’re finally in your lover girl era, so it’s either going to end in marriage or embarrassment”. 
The queer community, particularly lesbians, have reinterpreted the line to refer to the underlying worry some lesbians feel when dating a woman who has never dated another woman before. There's a fear that once they go public with this partner, they might realise they’re actually not into women or don’t want to date them, leading to embarrassment. A popular TikTok that encapsulates this is from @coolmary, who writes on screen “When you came out to your Catholic family for her” as the song plays. 
Other reactions are coming from queer women who are beginning a relationship with a man and worried about how others might perceive their queerness. As @afanpage23 puts it, “how much aura did I lose when I fell down the “bisexual asian girl falls for tall white boy” pipeline during pride month?”
A more comedic take on the trend is from dog owners who relate the line to how it feels to take their reactive or overexcited pets out for a walk or when people visit. TikToker @dukethegolden spun the trend to be from the dog's point of view, who looks unimpressed as their dishevelled owner takes them for their morning walk. 
While music has always been about the connection and interpretation felt by the audience, enjoying a piece used to involve more investigation into the artists’ perspective. Growing up, I remember diving deep into lyric websites and artist interviews, searching for the “true" meaning behind the songs I was listening to. Today, the emphasis has shifted towards more audience-driven, communal interpretations, making the listener an active participant in the dialogue around music.
With the rise of audience-generated media content based on music sounds on platforms like in the 2010s and now TikTok in the 2020s, there has been a gradual yet significant shift towards comedic, entertaining or thought-provoking interpretations that resonate with niche audiences. These spaces and tools have provided an opportunity to re-centre the audience’s participation in the creation and recreation of meaning and media comprehension. 
The reception to Sabrina’s single illustrates an increasingly public extrapolation of the relationship between artists, their creations and their audience. New formats and digital media have paved the way for audiences to be more than mere consumers, beautifully blurring the lines between the roles of consumer and creator. And I'm here for it.
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