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Rainbow Girls, 'Compassion to the Nth Degree'

I first heard this Sour Patch Kids candy of a song not long after Brett Kavanaugh became a Supreme Court justice; Erin Chapin, one-third of the Northern California folk trio Rainbow Girls, wrote it to process some rage by coating it in sarcasm and the group's trademark shiny harmonies. Listing all the things she definitely doesn't love, Chapin voices the predicament conventional femininity demands, especially for artists: the need to survive by sugarcoating emotions, playing nice and trying to remain compassionate. Now, the same week that Kavanaugh delivered one of the deciding opinions overturning Roe v. Wade, the Rainbow Girls offer a video capturing the song's emergence from "a liminal zone lacking substance. A sugar-coated wonderland reflecting the vapid distractions and bulging vanity we were seeing all over social media, despite the very alarming reality of the world falling apart in every conceivable way."

As Chapin and bandmates Vanessa May and Caitlin Gowdey gorge themselves on bonbons and glitter, the song's litany of horrors unfurls like the brightly colored body of a poisonous snake. "Compassion to the Nth Degree" captures the schizoid feeling of living through rolling crises, especially for those, like the ingenues the Rainbow Girls play in this video, who struggle to maintain a "pretty," vacant front.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ann Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs.
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