A Close Reading of “Starving” by Hailee Steinfeld

A Close Reading of “Starving” by Hailee Steinfeld

Image for postThis was not even photoshopped.

It?s been seven months since Hailee Steinfeld?s ?Starving? hit the airwaves, and in that time, I?ve managed to do a lot of thinking about the lyrics. At first listen, I was a little taken aback ? wasn?t this the same Hailee Steinfeld who was so affected by her discovery of masturbation that she wrote a love song to herself? Was Hailee ?love myself? Steinfeld backpedaling on her declarations that she ?[doesn?t] need anybody else??

I was stunned. Shocked. Distraught. In two short years, this passionate self-love activist had transformed into a run-of-the-mill sex-ophile. Masturbation was all good and well until she met the person who ?could do things to her body.? She was just ?so much younger yesterday,? when she was screaming her own name.

But then, I listened to the song two or three or a thousand more times. (It?s catchy, okay?!!) And as sexually arousing as physically starving is, the lyrics stirred up different thoughts in me. Maybe ?starving? wasn?t a sexual metaphor after all, but a literal feeling. And then it hit me: she?s singing to pizza. (Well, at least this song makes me picture her singing to pizza.)

Vivid images run through my mind: Hailee Steinfeld serenading her dinner. Or myself, looking longingly at a Neapolitan-style margherita. Or a giant slice, dancing in tune with the nonsensical electronic-sounding gibberish in Steinfeld?s chorus.

My mind is a weird place.

Now, why pizza? Starving could be an ode to anything edible, and pizza is just a little too trendy right now, if you ask me. But despite the ever-proliferating memes professing a love of pizza and disdain for physical activity (usually posted by a size two Instagram model who clearly doesn?t eat that much pizza and pays $35 for SoulCycle four times a week), I really, honestly, truly love a good pizza.

So, I?ve taken it upon myself to dissect Ms. Steinfeld?s lyrics stanza by stanza and uncover the not-too-hidden messages in this love song to America?s favorite Italian food.

You know just what to say

Shit, that scares me, I should just walk away

But I can?t move my feet

The more that I know you, the more I want to

Something inside me?s changed

We?ve all been here before. You?re out with friends and you?re not even hungry. Suddenly, it hits you: the mingling aromas of cheese, sauce, dough, and a shitload of grease. You immediately recognize the scent, and you know you should just walk away ? you don?t need that slice. You?re not even hungry, for god?s sake! But you?re so drawn to pure potential of an unconquered slice that you can?t even move. You can?t move your feet. And the longer you stand there, the scent wafting toward nose, the more you want to eat that pizza, to know it intimately. You weren?t hungry, but something inside you?s changed.

I was so much younger yesterday, oh

I didn?t know that I was starving till I tasted you

Don?t need no butterflies when you give me the whole damn zoo

By the way, by the way, you do things to my body

Ladies, you feel this. Remember when you were 19 and your metabolism worked at lightning speed (and yet for some now-indiscernible reason, you still hated yourself)? And at some point in your early 20s, you suddenly needed to watch what you ate, because it was suddenly possible for you to gain weight? Well Steinfeld turned 21 on December 11th, so she?s probably feeling like she was so much younger when she was 19 (like yesterday), when she could eat anything her teenage-heart desired, sans consequence. Now, as a newly anointed 20-something, she?s been watching her diet and feeling just fine about it. Until, one drunken night, she reintroduced herself to a greasy slice of heaven and realized that this new 20-something way of life was actually just fucking starving herself. She didn?t even notice how hungry she was until she took a bite. But now, there?s a penalty to pizza. It does things to her body, i.e. significant pizza intake will now cause weight gain. (I have no explanation for that butterflies line.)

You know just how to make my heart beat faster

Emotional earthquake, bring on disaster

You hit me head-on, got me weak in my knees

This stanza is a perfect piece of poetry describing my physical and emotional reaction whenever I find myself within smelling-distance of a good pizza.

So, to wrap up this perfectly pointless post: there are not enough love songs to pizza in this world. Thus, I?ve had to interpret my own. Pizza, I love you.


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