THE DELI DELIVERS: New single by Shybaby drops alongside apartment-dwelling music video

Cover image by Kelsey Wagner. Music video directed by Molly Mary O’Brien

Hot off the record presses, Shybaby’s “For Rent” is about a rent boy in the literal sense—a term traditionally used for young male prostitutes who occupy a strata of sex work that’s a couple rungs below being a high-class escort or an aspirational hustler; think Dee Dee Ramone trying get picked up on 53rd and 3rd to support his smack habit—but the rent boy at the heart of “For Rent” is instead your everyday low-level drug dealer with striking blue eyes and cool tats who’s prone to texting at 3am with invitations to share his bed in Bed-Stuy and not even paying for your Uber over…

…cuz when you think about it “rent boy” as commonly used is a bit of a misnomer given that most financial-sexual exchanges with literal streetwalkers are one-time only transactions whereas being a renter is to take part in an ongoing if explicitly impermanent series of exchanges—like renting a room or an apartment on a short-term lease—without owning or being invested any further and that’s the situation at the heart of Shybaby’s “For Rent” a song that takes the term much more literally…

…with our song’s narrator entering into a more literal rent boy relationship that no less intense or seemingly even more intense that a more officially committed relationship (no full-on “I love you, you pay my rent” dependency à la the Pet Shop Boys here) with the only promise made being to promise nothing which may spell "trouble" but our narrator doesn’t seem to "mind it" or at least that’s our reading of the lyrics which are delivered something like Kat Bjelland covering Bob Dylan’s "Talkin’ World War III Blues"

…or better yet in Shybaby’s own words: "’For Rent’ used to be called ‘Drug Dealer (For Rent).’ It’s the fun, more oblivious part of a two-song arc ending with an unreleased song that used to be called ‘Drug Dealer (Kicked Out).’ He was a drug dealer but not mine. He described himself as ‘For Rent,’ as in he was so scared to love someone after being hurt that he flat out let me know he didn’t want to care about me, while in the same breath telling me he cared about me; it’s less about him than how I’ve allowed myself to be cared for…”

 going to explain how “the song and video are dramatic and unserious” where the song’s “bridge is unhinged from the rest of the song in a way that makes me laugh – but also in a way that feels as abrupt as how he’d contradict himself, and how I’d go from so obsessed to so hurt. I liked that he called me pretty, and I’d gloss over the part where he also made me feel not-so-nice (very bad)" and the bridge does indeed sound like they turn into a Primus cover band for a minute…

…which is the reason “For Rent” pops for this reviewer is how it locates a comfort zone within these contradictions and unhinged shifts as put across with what sounds like unmitigated glee and a fit of bad temper at once perhaps provoked by emotionally investing in rented spaces whether physical or emotional…

 …as conveyed in the discursive lyrics (see below) and maybe even more so in the sing-spoken-shouted vocals and the careening buzzsaw guitar riding over a galloping beat with an elevated heart rate like a bunch of kids hopped up on Blue Maui Punch Pixy Stix in a bouncy castle and it’s nearly impossible not to get swept up in the song’s sweet ‘n’ sour flavor-crystal energy even as it leads our narrator down the path of declaring “I’m in for trouble now” while admitting the rush of “wak[ing] up in a room shifted two feet to the right"…

…but where it’s highly likely you’ll be taking this physical dislocation to the next level by moving into a new place entirely (part II of the original song?!) but not before crawling and shambling across the soon-to-be-vacated dwelling wearing a wide smile and clothes borrowed from one of Madonna’s backup dancers circa 1983 during that liminal, magical moment when you’ve finished cleaning out the old place moments before moving into the new one which is exactly what Shybaby does in the video for “For Rent"…

…or as Shybaby puts it in regards to the Molly Mary O’Brien-directed video: “The video was filmed in [my] apartment the day after moving out (rent went up by 40%). It felt like a perfectly timed opportunity to make something out of a shitty situation. It’s grey, washed out, and a little grimy, but it’s still fun” which sounds like a good description for NYC in general and also for the renter’s mindset of making unlivable spaces livable and even appealing and really more love songs lost should evoke real estate seeing as residential well-being is key to most any Gothamite’s mental health more so than dating or relationships…

…which is a very New York-based state of mind we realize but it’s makes sense for a city with over 8 million people to choose from romantically or otherwise (good odds even with 40% of adults being married tho’ who knows how many happily) but with only about 2 million rental apartments to choose from, with the overwhelming majority already occupied, so it’s no wonder many singles in the city would deem it a bigger deal landing an ideal apartment versus going on the perfect date or finding an ideal mate except for where two birds can be killed with one stone via strategic cohabitation…

…so hopefully “For Rent” will spark a trend towards more rental-based love songs which despite spiraling rents in NYC (the median rent in Manhattan recently breaking the $4K threshold) still represents a better option than owning that is if you get creative and/of lucky enough in your search for rental spaces cuz who wants all the extra work and worry of owning or the attendant risk of such a major commitment—whether romantic or real-estate based—so why not stay up for rent indefinitely? (Jason Lee)

Shybaby’s next show is March 29th at Ethyl’s in Brooklyn, with more TBA soon…

Lyrics courtesy of the artist:
Been 2 years since you first stayed
In my bed with me you were so skinny jaded

didn’t realize it was you again
Til you said "oh hey how have you been"
Since then you’ve inked up all your skin
Grown your hair out even longer put some meat on your you bones, I…
…you’ve still got those blue blue blue blue eyes
God damn you couldn’t be a more delicious sight

I know you’re trouble boy
I’m in for trouble now

You say you’re for rent you’re for rent you’re for rent
But then you call me a babe and i don’t mind it
But when you say you’re for rent you’re for rent you’re for rent
So you’ve been through it well, who hasn’t?

The next night after we’d stayed up playing dice
N woke up in a room shifted two feet to the right
I was out proving i don’t need no concrete
When you texted me the name of your bedstuy street
Three in the morning 15 dollar car
My second of the night but you didn’t even care
Walls painted peach and covered in leaves
I don’t wanna leave, i don’t wanna leave

I know you’re trouble boy
I’m in trouble now

You say you’re for rent you’re for rent you’re for rent
But then you call me a babe and i don’t mind it
But when you say you’re for rent you’re for rent you’re for rent
So you’ve been through it well–who hasn’t?

You can say i give you these looks
It’s cause I could get hooked

You say you’re for rent you’re for rent you’re for rent
But then you call me a babe and i don’t mind it
But when you say you’re for rent you’re for rent you’re for rent
But then you call me a babe and i don’t mind it
You say you’re for rent you’re for rent you’re for rent