MGMT, Christine and the Queens Drop New Song ‘Dancing in Babylon’

All’s fair in love, war, and sandwiches in MGMT’s “Dancing in Babylon,” the indie duo’s new song with Chris of Christine and the Queens.

The new track— set to appear on Loss of Life, out Feb. 23 via Mom + Pop — is, at its core, a tender piano ballad, but with the kind of quintessentially strange undercurrents you’d expect from MGMT.  Andrew VanWyngarden and Chris combine beautifully on vocals as well, exchanging lines before hitting some sublime harmonies at the end of the bridge, “I wanna tell everyone I know/‘I love you’/I wanna touch the scars and break the chains/That hold you/But I won’t stop/Til the sun dips down.”

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, VanWyngarden said “Dancing in Babylon” started off as a “silly, jokey song about this couple in Rockaway Beach that I didn’t know that well.” At first, it was more of a “happy-go-lucky, cute little song” reminiscent of the Magnetic Fields or Belle and Sebastian, but Chris totally transformed it. 

“Once we brought in Christine and the Queens, it went into this whole other space where it felt like ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ or a Roxy Music ballad. It’s all over the place,” VanWyngarden said.

“Dancing in Babylon” arrives with a video directed by longtime MGMT collaborator Ray Tintori. The visual opens with a man making himself a turkey sandwich and sitting down in front of a TV to play some kind of war video game. That kicks off a surreal, cosmic, and poignant tale of soldiers in love, the storyline seeming to collide with MGMT and Chris’ performance of the song.

“Creating the ‘Dancing in Babylon’ video with Chris and Ray was a prodigious affair (love), requiring everyone involved to operate in six dimensions at once, all while simultaneously making a simple turkey sandwich with Dijon mustard,” VanWyngarden and bandmate Ben Goldwasser said in a statement. “The sandwich that emerged is a cosmic mille-feuille that would be presentable in most high-end French diners.”

Of working with MGMT, Chris said, “I always loved MGMT’s multiverse, their freedom and talent, their limpid songwriting and killer soundscapes. Regal, inspiring. When they reached out for this power ballad, I was honored and also excited to dive into their dream, because I have the same all-encompassing approach with my work. I loved the backstory of the lyrics as well, and I work my lower register here more than usual. I felt invited into their cool movie, and I’m glad to be now a part of the galaxy. Let’s work on more love in the love galaxy.”

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Loss of Life marks MGMT’s fifth studio album and first in six years, following 2018’s Little Dark Age. It’s also the duo’s first album for Mom + Pop after leaving longtime label Columbia. In their interview with Rolling Stone, Goldwasser was upfront about the “psychological impact” of moving to an indie after so many years on a major label.

“We didn’t have a bad relationship with Columbia. They really were relatively hands-off with us, and let us take risks and let us put things out that I think maybe we all knew weren’t going to be big records, but it was the music we wanted to put out,” he said. “But I do think there was always something lingering in the back of our minds that it just felt like there was this…. I don’t want to say a cloud over everything we did — that sounds mean — but just that it was never 100 percent us. There was always somebody else we had to answer to, or uncomfortable conversations we had to have, where we had explain something to somebody who wasn’t a music person.”

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