Self Esteem

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Compliments Please (2019), 6/10
Prioritise Pleasure (2021), 5/10

Self Esteem (the project of English bisexual singer-songwriter Rebecca Lucy Taylor who had fronted indie band Slow Club for 15 years) debuted with the single Your Wife (2017), the beginning of her career in dance-pop muzak a` la Madonna and Rihanna. But album Compliments Please (2019), a collaboration with songwriter and producer Johan Karlberg of the Very Best, offers a much more refined and intelligent version of dance-pop: contains the singles the tribal quasi-gospel Wrestling, the hypnotic chant Rollout, the breathless quasi-Caribbean The Best and trotting, violin-tinged Girl Crush (just to name the singles that turned her into a pop star). The beat in In Time is truly minimal and the song's crescendo is mainly a matter of vocal polyphony, and other songs reference explicitly the tradition of call-and-response plantation songs .

Despite being voted "album of the year" by an important publication, Prioritise Pleasure (2021) was an inferior follow-up. Karlberg's production is more bombastic (with plenty of keyboards and strings) and abuses the backing singers. His tricks try to redeem material that is fundamentally weak. Hence the massive electronic distortion of Prioritise Pleasure and the waves of organ drones in The 345. The radio-friendly melodies are few and derivative: I'm Fine, that matches industrial noise and stately choir, and John Elton, dressed in symphonic Jim Steinman-esque pathos. Kalberg's disorienting beats shape the African flavor of Fucking Wizardry (possibly the album's highlight) and the neurotic rigmarole of How Can I Help you On the other hand, the colloquial and diaristic I Do This All the Time turns the idea upside down: the beat is irrelevant and it's the backup singers who carry the melody while she simply speaks. The album is basically two albums in one: on one hand the singer talks about her favorite topics in rather unappealing melodies, and on the other hand the producer implements his deviant strategy of music, more or less independently of the lyrical content.

(Copyright © 2021 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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