One of my favorite combinations when it comes to songwriting is when an artist can be simultaneously funny and socially aware. “Ex-Girlfriend” is the brand new song by Francesca Blanchard, and it does just that, while also having a catchy refrain, some funky keys and clear-as-a-bell vocals.
Blanchard will be performing at Sun Tiki Studios in Portland on Saturday night. She was last here in 2016 for a show at Blue while on tour for her debut album, the bilingual (English and French) “Deux Visions.”
Blanchard is a French-American songwriter based in Burlington, Vermont. She spent the first decade of her life in France with her French father and American mother. They relocated to rural Vermont when she was 10, but Blanchard’s globe-trotting continued as her parents’ work with humanitarian aid agencies brought the family to Ethiopia, Burundi, South Korea, Egypt, Thailand, Australia, India and Guatemala.
Blanchard starting writing songs as a teenager with her mother’s old guitar and, in 2011, released the EP “Songs on an Ovation.” She was 18. A few years later, she graduated from Boston University with a BFA in acting and released “Deux Visions,” a thoughtful acoustic album with fresh vocals. On the strength of that album, Blanchard toured with Lucy Dacus, JOSEPH and Suzanne Vega as a supporting act while also playing many of her own shows across the country.
In 2017, the single “Free” revealed the beginning of a shift toward a more layered, fleshed out sound. The song was used in an emotional scene during an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” instantaneously exposing Blanchard to a wider audience.
Last summer, Blanchard released “Baby,” a pop tune full of chunky beats and squishy keys, along with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia,” which stays true to the original while also elevating its impact with Blanchard’s impassioned-when-they-need-to-be vocals.
Blanchard released “Ex-Girlfriend” on Feb. 7 in a Facebook post in which she thanked Facebook and Instagram for “driving me crazy enough to write a song about how crazy you make me,” calling the song a love/hate letter to social media and a peek into her mind after hours of “aimless scrolling and comparing.”
Not since the local band Armies released their second album in 2018 with the song “Social Life” have I heard such a spot-on take on the pitfalls of social media and how all-consuming it can be, if you let it. “Ex-Girlfriend” starts with the lines, “I just spent an hour stalking your ex-girlfriend on the internet/All I saw were pretty pictures, memories of a time before we met.” The lament continues, then comes the refrain of “It’s got me going crazy, up in my head/All I’m doing lately is try and pretend like I don’t care, I don’t compare.”
This is not a slow and brooding tune; it’s an upbeat one with a groove running through it that will make your head bop and fingers snap. Blanchard’s astute observations continue in “Ex-Girlfriend’s” second verse: “All this information at my fingertips ain’t helping this at all/When all I do is spy on other people’s lives, I disregard my own.” If that’s not a truth bomb, I don’t know what is. The song winds down with Blanchard speaking with a Siri-like voice, saying things like, “You have three new notifications,” “You have seven new followers” and “We noticed you changed your relationship status to single.”
You can count on hearing “Ex-Girlfriend” live at Sun Tiki Studios. The show will include solo, stripped tunes from Blanchard, duo ones with her keys player Christopher Hawthorn, and a full-on-band finale.
Francesca Blanchard with Clever Girls and Plains
9 p.m. Saturday. Sun Tiki Studios, 375 Forest Ave., Portland, $10, all ages. eventbrite.com