50 Years of Music: 2013 – MGMT - "Your Life Is a Lie"

KEXP 50
07/06/2022
Roddy Nikpour
photo by Hilary Harris

KEXP is celebrating our 50th anniversary this year, and we're looking back at the last half-century of music. Each week in 2022, KEXP pays homage to a different year, and our writers are commemorating a song from that year that resonates with them. This week, we’re celebrating the year 2013. KEXP’s Roddy Nikpour remembers the MGMT song “Your Life Is a Lie,” which came out at an ironic time in his life.

Read or listen to the piece below. 


I remember thinking I was my coolest version of myself when I was in college. People usually say those are your best days. After all, what isn’t cool about a philosophy major with a jaunty handlebar mustache who DJs on his college radio station? We’d serve up early 2010s indie electronica all day. I’m talking Cut Copy, Passion Pit, M83—you name it. 

 

Somehow, that wasn’t enough for me to feel fully confident in myself. I (mistakenly) felt that I needed to prove my worth by putting myself in highly toxic and pretentious social circles. 

In addition to trying out a fixed-gear bicycle for the first time, I became part of a now-defunct school club called The Underground Foundation. Don’t get me wrong, TUF put on cool events—tons of super sweaty house shows with some of the best bands coming out of Phoenix, Arizona like Playboy Manbaby

 

For one event, TUF partnered with Columbia Records to host an on-campus listening session of MGMT’s 2013 self-titled album. The music was set to this super goopy, trippy, 3D animation. Some of the students in the room had to be under some kind of influence. 

It wasn’t just an in-the-moment experience, though. They gave us swag so we couldn’t forget it. I took home napkins and paper cups with MGMT’s logo on it. They even pressed buttons printed with the title of one of the singles: “Your Life Is a Lie.” The fun of it was that the button was red, white, and blue—almost like a political ad. 

Let me repeat: a red, white, and blue button bearing the words “Your Life Is a Lie.” 

I immediately pinned it on my backpack. When I walked around campus or rode the light rail, people would look at my bag and raise an eyebrow. Once in a while, someone would approach me and say, “Alright, I’ll bite. What’s this about?” To their disappointment, instead of engaging in some deeply controversial theory about reptiles or something, I would shrug all cool: “Oh, this? It doesn’t really mean anything. It’s the name of a song from a band.” I wouldn’t even mention MGMT because, in my mind, if they didn’t “get it” already, then they probably don’t even know MGMT.

Looking back, I don’t think MGMT wrote this song just so insecure college students like me could get a rush from feeling culturally superior. 

 

It’s ironic. It’s almost like MGMT was talking directly to me with a song called “Your Life Is a Lie.” For example, why was I spending several hours every week at a TUF show where nobody made an effort to interact with me? I was already part of more welcoming communities, like my college radio station, Blaze Radio, where I not only found social fulfillment but also where I could be my most unapologetically introspective yet goofy self. 

You never peak in life—that’s a myth. You never were your coolest self in the past. You are your coolest self right now because you’re being the most authentic to what you need. Your coolest self has yet to exist. Your life is a lie. 

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