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DIIV’s “Skin Game” Takes New Look at Addiction

30 July 2019
DIIV takes new look at addiction with "Skin Game."

“They gave us wings to fly, but then they took away the sky.” DIIV’s look at addiction has been well documented. One can’t help but feel a sense of despondency, albeit a deep understanding, of Zachary Cole Smith, the lead singer of indie dream pop band, DIIV. DIIV’s title track “Skin Game” is a perfect revaluation of Smith’s long battle with opiate addiction, as previously referenced in the band’s 2016 album, “Is the Is Are”. In a recent Pitchfork article, Abby Jones states that the preceding album “seemed to depict addiction recovery as a straightforward trip from point A to point B,” but “Skin Game” seems to communicate a contrasting perspective, as well as a completely different feel.

Reexamining the Substance Abuse Experience

In early 2017, Smith checked himself into “long-haul inpatient treatment” for drug addiction following a long public battle with substance abuse including possession charges for controlled substances. On Instagram Smith stated, “I’ve taken this roadway past the point of sanity and fucked with way too many people.” In a previous interview with Pitchfork in 2017, Smith acknowledged “Is the Is Are” as a cautionary tale of his struggles with Heroin. With lyrics like “I’m out of sight, I’m out of mind/ Out like a light, and left behind,” the entirety of the album seems hopeless. The poppy-synth sounds that accompany such melancholy vocals seem to minimize Smith’s despair. Smith later revealed that the album was not entirely honest, asserting that it “trivializes what people go through” in regard to being in active addition. Smith also stated that “Is the Is Are” skimmed over the true tragedy and agony that comes with substance abuse.

Going Deeper

“Skin Game” seems to openly dive deeper into Smith’s struggles, as the lyrics blatantly express the pain associated with coming clean, as well as the unity to be gained from recovery. This DIIV single is surely the start to an album suggesting growth, as well as a more honest outlook: “Sunken ceiling and a sideways grin/ We live to use and use to live/ Crack a window/ Get some life in me.”

Face the Music Foundation understands, first-hand, how music can shape perceptions about addiction and mental health. We urge all who are struggling to get help now.