Boy-mad Oblivion: Dialling Into the 'Dream Phone' Dystopia of LibraLibra's "Loverboy"
If you were a kid who liked boys in the 90s then there was only one board game worth throwing a Toys’R’Us tantrum for: Dream Phone. We weren’t interested in the capitalist nightmare of Monopoly or the finger pointing murder antics of Cluedo. All we wanted was a pastel pink pretend phone that we could use to dial an endless supply of fictional fuckboys twice our age. It was basically Tinder on training wheels. And - facts are facts, honey - if you didn’t own or regularly play a copy then you were definitely going to die alone.
Of course, it goes without saying that the reality of Dream Phone was a little different than the super convincing adverts depicted: The whole concept was actually a bit shit as games go and the “cute” boys were an equally devastating let down - just like real life, really. Notably, the game is probably more toxic than a cursed copy of a Hasbro Ouija board, and comes complete with some super unhealthy messages for young women at a time when they really needn’t be worrying about whether “Brad” from the surf shop thinks they look cute or not. Incidentally, it’s exactly these qualities that make Dream Phone the perfect backdrop for Brighton quartet LibraLibra’s new music video for “Loverboy”.
Directed by Elliot Tatler and featuring the band as the sort of screeching, hysterical prepubescent girls seen in the classic 90s ads for the game, the video delves into the weird reality of Dream Phone - - and of modern misadventures in romance, in the process. We spoke with the band’s tenacious frontwoman Beth Cannon over email, who revealed that the video’s concept really “popped out” at herself and Tatler when they sat down with the song. “The idea of girls being boy-mad for me definitely harked back to the Dream Phone game,” she explains, “We just started envisioning little girls going mad over this game and obsessing over all these guys, and that if they could actually see them and meet them would be utterly disappointed.”
Cue LibraLibra’s video playfully unveiling a rogues’ gallery of potential secret admirers who look great on card, but hideous in real life. It’s a bright, gleeful, Powerpuff punch of a video but, much like the song itself, there’s a dark edge to it with lyrics that delve into a period in Cannon’s life when she had PTSD and was struggling with her mental health when the musician was “getting fucked up and searching for that one” who could make her feel better.
“‘Loveboy’ may seem like bubblegum pop and I certainly love its fun edge, however, when I read my words back I’m transported to a time where I was drinking away my darkness to the point where I was getting myself into some equally - if not more - dark and nasty places. It’s like 'up come the blinkers and let's go: full light-speed ahead, into oblivion.' “
It’s a statement that will be painfully relatable for many people who may have found themselves similarly dealing with some heavy personal issues by launching themselves into a hedonistic abyss or trying to find peace in other people’s beds. For women, especially, we’re taught from a preposterously young age that our problems can likely all be solved if we just make like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty and bag ourselves a Prince who can stop our suffering. “I can’t speak for everyone, but for me this became a big part of my life.,” Cannon tells us when asked whether she thinks we’re all socially conditioned to think this is the case. “I look back at how girls were perceived and ‘dealt’ with at my school and it was so wrong. We had a girls' school at one end of town and the boys' school at the other. “
“Firstly, the boys were idolised—were seen in a completely different light to us. It was like they could do no wrong, and treat girls however they wanted, and in turn this created a weird dynamic between all the girls themselves. The name calling, the bullying, got so bad to the point where, for me, I tried to take my own life, and looking back I know I wasn’t the only one that was going through this shit.
“I’d like to say it has got better, but has it really? There is still such a divide and there are still so many young people that are lost and can't talk about what's going on and what they're experiencing. If you've gone through something so dark, or feeling lost and alone, it's easier to get fucked up and lose yourself even more and focus on something, like becoming obsessed with a boy, than it is to address what is within, because, hey, maybe that boy really will make all your problems go away? We need to stop labelling people and start caring, offering support and being there for one another. “
Cannon describes the word “Loverboy” as simply meaning “Come be my fuck buddy & let’s fuck away this pain”, and the song itself bounds between the parameters of this bittersweet sentiment - the destructive ecstasy that can come with partying all the time, sleeping around, and falling in love with different people every night as a quick fix for a feeling you likely don’t fully understand yet. It’s the sort of epiphany that can plunge you into an inescapable darkness during a post-party come down, but it’s also the sort of realisation that can burrow through your subconscious during the creative process.
“I find it very hard to talk about certain parts of my past with anyone but through my music I can find a way to confront my demons,” Cannon suggests when asked what prompted her to revisit her past via the song, “I think subconsciously I’m always revisiting past experiences. Over the years I’ve been in rehab, and misdiagnosed with various mental health problems, all because I hadn’t been addressing my past. Through that, the only way I’ve found I can cope is through writing and creating.”
And with that we strut right back to Dream Phone. The game that basically suggests to young girls that true love is little more than a dial tone away. That even the most complex and luscious of emotions can be conjured by something as banal and simple as a phone. That even if you don’t feel confident about yourself yet that a 12 second audio clip of Carlos saying “I think you’re the dreamiest girl in school” is enough to make you believe it for at least the next few days. The message? Boys are the best. Get yourself one and you’ll be the absolute happiest!!!!
“Go on YouTube and watch one of the adverts from the original ‘Dream Phone’ game, it’s literally hammering home to all girls back in the 90s that we must all be boy mad,” Cannon agrees, “It's creepy and toxic when you see who it was created for and the messages that it was sending out. Don’t get me wrong though—my nostalgic eye loves all the artwork and playing the game itself is also a laugh, when you play it knowing and seeing it for what it is. But you can’t deny how messed up it is at the same time.”
Messed it though it may be, we’re pretty tempted to blast “Loverboy” on repeat while playing Dream Phone just one last time…So, if you don’t mind, we might have a secret admirer in Jamal, Tyler, or Steve (hello hunks!) that we need to investigate right this second…we love it, we love it.