Nomenclature: Unpacking Heartbreak and Peril in Lizzy McAlpine’s five seconds flat


Lizzy McAlpine’s newest album, five seconds flat, tells the story of the heartbreak, joy, and the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with navigating young love. McAlpine has been releasing music since 2019 and between her EPs and albums, as well as her social media presence on TikTok, has amassed a large following. After releasing an album, as well as multiple singles and EPs between the years of 2019 and 2022, McAlpine released her sophomore album, five seconds flat on April 8th, 2022. 

Much like McAlpine’s other releases, this album has an emotional feel to it and focuses on her personal narratives. five seconds flat chronicles McAlpine’s struggles with love, loss, and desire through songs ranging from emotional ballads to upbeat pop. While the vibe of this album is not necessarily cohesive, it keeps the listener on an emotional rollercoaster alongside McAlpine, which is purposeful for the storyline the album tells. The consistency within the lyricism and McAlpine’s vocals are what solidifies the album and makes each track feel connected to the others. The diversity of sound among the tracklist makes for a unique and phenomenal listening experience. 

This album immerses the listener into Lizzy’s story, referencing the struggles she has experienced. The first track, called “doomsday” describes the inevitable damage that toxic relationships cause.. This feeling is exemplified by an acoustic instrumental opening with soft vocals, as well as the lyrics, “Pull the plug, make it painless / I don’t want a violent end,” and, “I’d like to plan out my part in this / But you’re such a narcissist / You’ll probably do it next week.” Through these lyrics, McAlpine conveys the feeling of being trapped in an unhealthy situation, feeling helpless at the hands of another person, and preparing oneself for the painful heartbreak that is to come. She equates it to anticipating one’s death by incorporating language about a “doomsday” and an inevitable downfall. McAlpine also defines the specific emotions that come with heartbreak with lyrics such as,  “Don’t say that you’ll always love me / ’Cause you know I’d bleed myself dry for you / Over and over again.” McAlpine’s powerful imagery,  the emotional lyrics that play to the feelings that one experiences in an unrequited and hopeless love, and the build of the song are what draws the listener in immediately. 

The fourth track on this album, “called you again,” has a slightly different sound, which is certainly more up-beat and pop-adjacent. Despite its different sound, it conveys a message similar to  “doomsday”. McAlpine describes the difficulties of existing in post-relationship purgatory and the pain and confusion that comes along with that. McAlpine opens with the lyrics, “I called you again / I don’t know why I keep on / Thinking that we’re friends” and follows in the chorus with, “So I’ll make my bed and sleep in it alone / ’Cause I never know when we’re done talking.” These lyrics encapsulate the emotional attachment to a relationship, the attempt to make amends, and the reflection and guilt that this brings up. It’s interesting to compare “called you again” with other tracks on the album, especially “doomsday”, as listeners can see how McAlpine’s contradictory feelings of hatred, and pain, as well as love and longing dictate the vibe of the album. Much like the other tracks, this song builds as McAlpine goes back and forth, questioning her need to speak to this person she’s lost touch with. In the final verse, McAlpine finishes with the lyrics, “All I do is hurt you / All I do is cause you pain / ’Cause I called you again.” McAlpine’s acknowledgement of  the mutual heartbreak within her relationship deepens the emotions behind this storyline and adds depth to the concepts that drive it.

The following track, “all my ghosts” is one of the most upbeat songs on this album and follows the storyline of McAlpine navigating heartbreak while describing the exciting and hopeful feeling of entering a new relationship. This track utilizes imagery within the lyrics, such as, “We walked in comfy silence / Footsteps down familiar sidewalks / Knowing that we were here in our dreams last night.” McAlpine describes a date with her romantic interest using details that allow the reader to picture her and her partner connecting with each other and meekly expressing romantic feelings through innocent interactions. The instrumentals, which incorporate synth and guitar build between verses, also works as a way of expressing McAlpine’s enthusiasm and simultaneous apprehension towards this connection. The chorus includes the lyrics, “All my ghosts are with me / I know you feel them too / Ridin’ shotgun next to your free slurpee / They know all of my habits, but they don’t know about you.” McAlpine uses the metaphor of “ghosts” to allude to her hesitations and fears that are a result of her past relationships and drive her approach to this new connection. She emulates the feeling of fear and excitement by explaining that although she has these hesitations and the other party involved is aware of her weariness entering the relationship, she chooses to not let these “ghosts” overtake her new connection. In contrast to the other tracks on the album, this is a completely different sound that encapsulates optimistic and hopeful emotions. Once again, it adds depth to the rollercoaster of emotions within this album, while still staying cohesive as McAlpine reflects on her past.

In track number eight, “ceilings,” McAlpine revisits familiar feelings of heartbreak with a slightly different approach. This song is mostly driven by the simple acoustic guitar but follows a pattern with the other tracks, as it builds from verse to chorus. The song contains lyrics such as, “Lovely to be sitting here with you / You’re kinda cute but it’s raining harder / My shoes are now full of water.” Similar to themes with other tracks on the album, this song emulates a feeling of melancholy in tandem with a longing and desire to exist within a perfect relationship. The verses are sung with hints of pain and longing, while the chorus ramps up and builds with feelings of exasperation and desperation. In the chorus McAlpine sings, “You kiss me in your car / And it feels like the start of a move I’ve seen before.” Although this could be referring to a multitude of situations, these lyrics overall reflect the feeling of wanting something that feels impossible. These reflections of past relationships help tie in this track with others among the story line. Arguably, the most interesting part of the song is in the final chorus at the very end of the song with the lyrics, “But it’s not real / And you don’t exist / And I can’t recall the last time I was kissed.” This twist of this relationship not existing leaves a lot up for interpretation to the listener. It reifies notions of wanting, desire, loss, and despair that are laced throughout the album. This track is sure to invoke emotion and put the listener in McAlpine’s shoes as she navigates the most difficult parts of heartbreak and self reflection.

Overall, McAlpine’s five seconds flat is a must listen to album. McAlpine’s lyricism and instrumentals are well developed in connection with her storyline. The listener will become engrossed in a variety of emotions as they experience feelings of love, longing, and heartache alongside McAlpine. This album truly showcases McAlpine’s talent as a musician and a songwriter and will make any listener an instant fan. I highly recommend this album to anyone looking to experience an emotional journey through their headphones.