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MKE Music Premiere: NEWSKI, ‘U Don’t Get to Pick Who You Fall For’

Three men sit in a coffee shop with their drinks in front of them and a yellow wall in the background. The man in the center leans closer to the camera as the two other men look at each other behind him.
Kelly Bolter

Every week, Milwaukee Music Premiere connects the city’s artists with our listening audience. If you’re an artist with a track you’d like us to debut exclusively on Radio Milwaukee, head over to our Music Submission page to learn how.

Normally for our premieres, the write-up component finds some kind of theme or throughline that eases you into a discussion about the song. This premiere is so wild, though, that we’ll just skip all that and let one of Milwaukee’s finest songwriters explain things.

The note immediately below was provided by Brett Newski — who performs as the all-caps NEWSKI these days — about “U Don’t Get to Pick Who You Fall For.” This note has not been embellished or edited in any way:

WINTER 2013: “I was drifting around Saigon Vietnam, finishing my 2-year-stint as a resident there; mostly hustling odd jobs, teaching guitar and eating oversized bowls of soup in 90 degree weather. I went to visit my girlfriend who was working in Melbourne, Australia. I was in love with this girl and spent virtually all of my remaining money on the flight. She broke up with me the moment I got there. I spent the remaining 10 days in Melbourne loitering in parks and drinking with homeless people. My favorite homeless guy was a young man named ‘Cans’ who always wore a hockey helmet because it allowed him to sleep without a pillow. Cans also taught me how to get free lunch from the co-op. I later forged a medical document to get a flight home for free. This song is the story. It is the most literal song I have ever written.”

That was 152 words. The song itself somehow contains almost three times that — despite a mere 4-minute runtime — and wraps those lyrics in a slightly discordant acoustic guitar, thudding bass line and insistent percussion. It manages to sound both chaotic and highly organized, allowing the stream-of-consciousness story to unfold with lines like:

  • Never fall for a substitute teacher
  • I'm vulnerable enough to buy an L. Ron Hubbard novel
  • My GPS is DIY, it’s in my dome!

This was clearly not a very fun experience for Newski. But, as he usually does, he turned an emotionally damaging and traumatic situation into a fine piece of — as one publication put it — “slacker pop.”