Pop is a tricky beast and in the case of Empress Of there’s an argument to be made that certain artists may be best for a niche audience. Though her latest record has great vocals and powerfully honest stories from Empress Of, much of the album feels so low energy that it’s hard to feel constantly invested. By taking it safe in other aspects of the record, Empress Of is interesting but not all together memorable.
The lush vocals spiral around a great R&B swing on “Everything To Me” as Empress Of launches her album with a cool sense wonder. While the song follows a simple pop direction, there’s a sense of relatable honesty and sharp production to make it all feel perfectly soothing. The grooves really take off on “Just The Same” where every bass hook is constantly evolving to take the song’s energy somewhere else. As infectious as all the hooks are however, the song can lack enough edge to stand tall outside of the record itself. This is what makes the quirky tones of “Trust Me Baby” so intriguing, and the distinct language play so much more fun than the opening tracks before it.
“Love For Me” drifts back into much of Empress Of’s ambient pop energy, while her vocals take a much more energetic tilt. Even with a much more impassioned delivery and abrasive moments, the track’s subdued sound will likely be its most divisive quality. Out of a haze, “I Don’t Even Smoke Weed” takes a much more aggressive dance approach, with Empress Of confessing as much as they scream with excitement. Even then, these beats are often contrasted sharply by how calm the vocals are. All the lyrical fun of “Timberlands” set it apart from the rest of the record, with rhymes and pronunciation being more addictive than any melody. Though it really hovers on its smooth energy, this verbal focus is surprisingly powerful.
As Empress Of pushes a lot harder on “I’ve Got Love” all the rich details of her composition shine in this exuberant push of energy. Really going over-the-top for once, sees the artist at the height of her fun on this album. “All For Nothing” interestingly plats with some bizarre tones to make the simple grooves work in a mysterious way, as percussion itself elevates what would be predictable verses. A little more Spanish comes out on “When I’m With Him” as Empress Of feels full of life and hope. It’s a shame however between songs like this and “Again” that so much of the track just doesn’t cut through or take enough risks to make it feel new. At least “Again” does offer a more spacey take on her pop to make the low-key feeling of the song fit the rhythms better.
Words by Owen Maxwell