Kate Nash Legit Wrote the Most Relatable Ode to Shitty Relationships

I mean "Foundations" – more casually known as the song in which she rhymes "bittah" with "fittah".

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20 April 2017, 11:46am

When I was six years old, my mum ushered me into the kitchen while she was crushing some garlic for an arrabiata and let me in on her longstanding personal theory that after two to four years, most relationships turn to shit. Granted, this was a rather pessimistic outlook to instill in someone at such an impressionable age, but as I've gotten older and observed the patterns of my surroundings, I have to concede that – as with a lot of things – she's kind of right.

There are many upsides to being in a relationship. If you're with the right person, it can be like having a best mate who will go to Thorpe Park or eat tapas with you at a moment's notice, but can also give you multiple orgasms and make you laugh without you having to sadly swipe through a carousel of dead-eyed faces on an app beforehand. When it's bad, though, your joint existence can turn into a series of simultaneously mundane and upsetting events. You'll find yourself having rabid arguments over the most pointless things – "how many times do I have to tell you, 'dry frying' an onion is not a thing", "Um, Jeremy Kyle isn't 'high art' you total PRICK" – and you'll stop wearing real outfits, instead choosing to clinically shuffle between pyjama sets, looking at yourself in the mirror and thinking 'my tits will never look this good again, but no one will ever know apart from my GP and them.'"

There have been endless songs written about relationship breakdowns because they inspire a universal sort of pain; one most of us have endured by our early 20s, and one that shapes us for life. One of the most lowkey relatable songs on the subject, though, came from an unlikely source: Kate Nash, a then 20-year-old indie kid from Harrow via MySpace who wore floral dresses and a choppy fringe and released what is essentially a semi-iconic modern nursery rhyme set to some piano plonks called "Foundations".

Universally known as Kate Nash's biggest hit, and more casually known as the song in which she rhymes "bittah" with "fittah", "Foundations" has aged brilliantly in ways we could never have predicted. When it first it came out ten years ago, though, it was treated as a bit of a joke. Nash was consistently likened to a second rate Lily Allen (because there was only room for one "real-talking" white woman from London in music) and the manner in which she spun tedious, everyday events into catchy pop songs was frequently scoffed at. "Alex Turner and Mike Skinner are possessed of an indefinable ability to turn ordinary situations into extraordinary lyrics, but Nash seems to be possessed of the precise opposite," wrote one reviewer for The Guardian, adding, "The problem is Nash's lyrics. 'Foundations' has her berating a boyfriend for glazing over when she's talking...but by the end of the album, do you ever know how he feels?"

Of course we don't know how he feels. "Foundations" is about the subtle hell that comes with the slow disintegration of a relationship, and it's written from Nash's perspective – that's literally the point of the song. "Thursday night, everything's fine, except you've got that look in your eye / when I'm telling a story and you find it boring / you're thinking of something to say," begins Nash, "you'll go along with it then drop it and humiliate me in front of our friends." With a few casual turns of phrase, Nash perfectly captures that very specific feeling of knowing someone so well that one glance or expression can feel loaded with meaning. And, if neither of you are happy, how that can transform into a series of minute power struggles instead of all the fun, chill stuff that made you fall in love to begin with, like that time you got wasted and fingered them in some bumper cars on Brighton Pier. Sure, it might not be particularly poetic or thrilling – but it still hits straight to the heart.

The true beauty of "Foundations" is how Nash takes these microaggressions and zeroes in on the total absurdity of them. "You went and got sick on my trainers, I only got these yesterday / oh my gosh I cannot be bothered with this," she spits in a way that transports you to a banging hangover, lobbing meaningless jibes across the kitchen table on a Sunday morning. When you're nearing the end of a relationship, it can feel perfectly reasonable to have a blazing altercation about who the fuck spewed cider and kebab on someone's new Nikes, before spending the next few hours in a deep well of silence. When you're out of that relationship, you can hardly remember why you cared so much.

But it's not a song about two people who can't stand each other – it's way more nuanced than that. When you spot a couple in the street, angrily and silently swiping through their iPhones at the bus stop, or bickering outside a club at 2AM in those whiny voices specifically reserved for deeply inconsequential subjects, it can be easy to think that one of them needs to get dumped immediately. Why would they stay in something that clearly makes them both so unhappy? From the outside, it looks like they have voluntarily signed up for prison, but with IKEA furniture and Jamie Oliver recipes and the slow hum of Netflix.

But relationships don't start off like that. They start with hot daily sex and getting to know the complex web of intricacies behind another human being until you realise you prefer them to all the other people. Before you know it, you can't imagine life without them, so by the time it's simply not working anymore, it feels too painful and frightening for either of you to extract yourself and start afresh. "My fingertips are holding onto the cracks in our foundations / and I know that I should let go but I can't," sings Nash over a punchy, melancholic melody, her voice cracking with the awareness that their time is up, but not wanting to lose them either. We've all been there, and it can be sad and paralysing and hurtful – "Foundations" articulates those feelings brilliantly.

I'm not saying that Kate Nash was one of the greatest unsung songwriters of the 2000s or even that "Foundations" is a hugely incredible song – but it does capture that particular process of grief in a piercingly familiar way. And it must have touched a nerve for a lot of people as it went on to sell millions. As we know, breakups aren't always immediately gut-wrenching and tragic like in Adele's "Someone Like You" or loaded with perfectly executed venom like in Alanis Morissette's "You Oughtta Know". Sometimes they're telling your boyfriend that you'd rather be with his friends because they're much fitter, or calling your girlfriend a bitch, or deliberately trying to hurt each other until you realise the bad stuff has started to outweigh all the good stuff. Speaking to Broadly in 2015, Kate Nash commented that "sometimes people want really shiny things that they don't feel like they can touch, and other times they want something relatable, and I think I came at a time when people were craving real."

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(Lead image by Chris Barber via Wikimedia, second image by Antje Naumann via Wikimedia)