Thirteen years ago, Aly & AJ contributed to history by charting at #17 in the Billboard Top 100 with “Potential Breakup Song,” staking their position in pop culture forever. If you were like me, you were barely seven years old, absolutely belting your heart out to that song in your bedroom, dedicating it to the ex-boyfriend you definitely did not have. Today, the duo is making their mark on the world through 12-hour charity live streams and activist anthems like their latest single, “Joan of Arc on the Dance Floor.”
Quarantine willing, creativity is having its moment and for Aly & AJ, that means working on their first full-length album since 2007. “Joan of Arc on the Dance Floor,” the second single from their upcoming LP, is accompanied by a music video inspired by the landmark silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc by Carl Dreyer.
The song is backed by synths reminiscent of ‘80s hits and fronted by chant-like lyrics that pay homage to the ferocity and passion we’re witnessing from activists in today’s political climate. Though a statement at its core, it’s an upbeat new-wave-esque number that Nylon has called an “effortless bop for the ages” and Billboard has recognized as a “first-rate pop single.” The videos black-and-white jump-cut filming, costuming, and grainy flash effects constitute a tribute to Dreyer’s acclaimed film with a modernized sense of feminine power, as black and white images of white male Republicans play over the bridge chanting “We don’t stop / We say no.” The lyricism serves as a theatrical ode to fighting fervently for justice no matter the consequences. The girls cite the way that their beliefs in women’s rights and equal pay have shaped them in an interview with Business Insider, and they continue on to note current events and the song as a response to the global movement of Black Lives Matter protests. “We wanted to write something that felt very anthemic and would be able to lift people up, make them feel like they could be warriors, in whatever way that is—whether that’s standing up for their religious beliefs, their sexuality, their rights,” Aly stated. In true Joan of Arc fashion, Aly & AJ are planting their feet in their beliefs and doing it fearlessly—and socially distanced, filming the entire video in Aly’s living room.
The two recently hosted a 12-hour charity stream—each hour dedicated to a different cause—and raised over $30K to be distributed evenly amongst Glaad, The Trevor Project, Nalleli Vs Cancer, Frontline Foods, Beauty Bus, Project Heal, Art of Elysium, Sierra Club, Women’s History Museum, Musicares, Color of Change, Save the Stages, and The Red Cross. The stream kicked off with a full concert set and followed with a Phil of the Future cast reunion, a She-Ra scene reading with AJ and co-star Amy Carrero, a karaoke session with AJ’s co-star Hayley Orrantia from The Goldbergs, a conversation with Cierra Ramirez and Maia Mitchell from Good Trouble, and more. The tail end of the stream included the sisters reviewing their own music videos from over the years, and they tied it all up with a DJ hour.
A decade-long absence from the music industry could stunt an act, but Aly & AJ met the times accordingly. In more ways than one, we’ve matured alongside them. Their early discography is iconic—a vital asset to late 2000s nostalgia—but today they’re vivaciously using their platform to not only remind us of our childhood in a lonely time, but to let it be known on what side of history they stand. In a sense, the girls have perfectly mirrored what it means to have grown up in America in the 2010s. We’ve learned that our existences are political. Especially as recognized entertainers, they’re aware that apolitical alignment is a disservice to the platform they hold. The Disney light that we met Aly & AJ in is a restrictive one, but they’ve come into their own and are debunking the notion that celebrity stances in political causes are unnecessary. In her interview with Business Insider, Aly commented, “They always kind of say, ‘We don’t need to hear from you, shut up, you’re just a singer, go back to what you do well.’ But I think that what our duty is, as musicians, is to speak about [political causes]. That is our art, that is our art form, and we’re citizens in society, just like anyone else.” Not only do they know how to write a banger, but they know how to be allies too.
By Angelica Crisostomo