UC Berkeley senior Andrew Montana has been busy working on his debut album, Azalea, Holly, while finishing up his art degree. His newest single, “Strawberry,” is just a taste of his upcoming record, and it’s a folksy, enveloping and somewhat peculiar song (but only upon first impressions). With “Strawberry” taking off on TikTok well before its May 21 release date, the song is sure to continue to be a hit among fans of folk and the dark cottagecore vibes sweeping the social media app and beyond.
What’s most unique about “Strawberry” is its premise. While songs about death and murder have been set to folk music before, the way Montana details how he’d help the subject of the song get away with murder in such a visceral yet stripped-down manner makes it more powerful than if he had included multiple sprawling verses. The singer hides blunt lyrics in a blanket of good vibes — if you don’t really pay attention to the lyrics, “Strawberry” comes off as a typical indie folk song about love.
However, that’s far from what “Strawberry” is. “I’ll bake you strawberry pie/ Clean the blood and never ask why,” Montana sings tenderly and unassumingly, as if he’s innocently professing his love and loyalty instead of inserting them in the midst of a bloody scene. When you look past the unusual pairing of baking and cleaning up a murder scene, “Strawberry” is a profound declaration of love and introspection. It urges listeners to evaluate how far they’d go for the ones they love and embrace the moments exposing parts of their lives and personalities that they fear won’t be accepted. “I’ll be your alibi,” he sings with confidence.
“Strawberry” masquerades as a harmless, cute song, but it has deep layers. The outermost is the twangy, plucking guitar that’s a staple of so many folk songs. Then comes the realization that Montana is crooning about helping someone hide evidence of murder and change their identity to prevent getting caught. The final, innermost layer, is that the song is truly about unconditional love and sticking by your loved ones through thick and thin. The nuances of the track are what make it an enjoyable listen over and over again; as each time it plays, you’ll discover something new in the lyrics, not only about the song, but about yourself as well.
The instrumentals of “Strawberry” are gentle and lulling with moments of brightness sprinkled in. Montana’s deep vocals flow through the song like a river cutting through the countryside, and the sweet harmonies that chime in around the end further uplift the loving nature of the track and veil the brutality found in the lyrics. “Strawberry” is like its namesake: sweet, juicy and just a little tangy when it needs to be.
Montana’s nonchalance and unquestioning acceptance make you forget that “Strawberry” is a song about murder. His talent for melding a soft, folk sound with a mildly gory storyline is impressive, and it’s a unique combination that he somehow makes work. From strawberry pies to hiding bodies, Montana is able to weave not just a sonic experience for listeners, but an emotional journey that grows with every listen.