The latest target of Lenii’s signature dark pop is organized religion, hypocrisy, and falling for someone that you “shouldn’t.” “White Lie” is perhaps her most multi-faceted single yet. It describes a “sinful” relationship but leaves much beyond that intentionally ambiguous. “I wanted to leave the nature of the relationship open to interpretation so people could have their own connection to it,” Lenii explains. “When I was writing it I think I was rolling my eyes at the idea of sex in general being ‘sinful’ or taboo. I think I was also just getting comfortable in myself identifying as bi, so that influenced it a little bit too… and then sometimes I listen and I feel like it could actually be about a person who’s comfortable in a relationship that’s bad for them.”
These layers are all revealed with Catholic symbolism and religious analogies - a product of Lenii’s Irish Catholic upbringing. “With a history of 900 years of Catholic oppression, it is a big part of my identity that I’m actually very fond of,” she explains. “But besides being proud of my heritage in that way, I don’t think I was ever fully convinced by the teachings or the idea of organized religion in general. I think religion is beautiful when it’s something people find comfort in, but I feel it’s used too often as a tool to oppress and judge people. I would call myself agnostic… I don’t believe in God, Heaven or Hell, or any of that the way I was brought up to, but I do believe there’s a lot we don’t understand about the world and I’m ok with not understanding it.”
In addition, recent reports about Ireland’s Mother and Baby Homes (for women who became pregnant outside of marriage and were forced to work in poor conditions and give up their babies without consent) have put a new strain on the relationship between Irish people and the Catholic church.
At the song’s core, it’s more about a relationship than religion. Over the chorus Lenii sings. “It’s a little bigger than a white lie, telling me you could be the good guy.” Yet, she still wavers toward the political with lines like “Just because the lie’s white, doesn’t sit right. Doesn’t make it honest ‘cause the tone’s light.” Lenii explains that, “On one hand [the lyric is] a little jab at the white-washing of history (like how Jesus is portrayed as a white man when he was from the Middle East). On the other hand it’s saying that just because a story makes you feel better (or superior) doesn’t mean it’s the truth.”
The cover art for "White Lie" was done by Cork-based artist Holly Keating, who is also responsible for “The Kids Are All Rebels” cover. Lenii has named her cartoon character persona “Len,” and views her as a more fierce version of herself. “She’s able to take on all these controversial topics for me,” says Lenii. “Holly, in her signature style, turned Len into a nun, who’s less than happy with what she’s been fed. I wanted the cover to be thought-provoking and chose the image of a nun because that’s the highest position a woman can have in the clergy.”
She was originally planning on releasing a different single, “Straitjacket,” this week, but “White Lie” drew attention on TikTok. Her TikTok caption dubbed the track “a song my Irish Catholic nana would hate.” Her nana hasn’t heard the song (and Lenii hopes that she never will).