Album Review: "I am Empress Of" by Empress Of
In her third studio album, Empress Of mixes dance-pop, hip hop, and electronica into an otherworldly, nonconformist, ethereal trip. It’s the story of a hard breakup, a common theme in the arts, but with recordings of her mother talking, surging chords, and harmonies throughout, it’s anything but typical. It’s not a perfect album, but it’s still very solid and could definitely become a hyper-pop classic. Overall, it’s more than worth the listen.
The album starts out strong with the introductory “I’m Your Empress Of.” It is here that we get a taste of what’s to come, the strong emotion, the rhythmic beat, and the somewhat vintage aesthetic. After a salsa piano riff, it smoothly transitions into “Bit of Rain,” which utilizes the build-up from “I’m Your Empress Of” to make a catchy, sophisticated track with thought-provoking lyrics. It is the true beginning of the story and the relationship has not gone bad yet. It is like, as she says, “a wall that’s never gonna fall down.” But naturally, things have to change in “Void,” a chiller song, with simple yet effective harmonies. It manages to drop the mood with brutally honest lyrics about how the relationship has gone sour. The next track is “Love is a Drug.” In the song, the speaker knows she is unstable, but she can’t help but want someone to hold onto. As a song, it is not as strong as the first three before it. The chorus suffers from repetition, and the lyrics fall short. Despite this, it does not bring down the album and still manages to get across the desperate mindset. Thus concludes the first third of the album.
Credit: Dorian Lopez
“U Give It Up” opens with a concise clublike beat and lyrics that stand out above all other elements in the song. It is almost retro and could have easily been a hit in the 2000s. The singer is still longing, but now she seems to analyze the actions of her ex as well. In “Should’ve,” these feelings only get stronger as they develop into regret, regret that she and her ex had ever started dating. One of the most dramatic songs on the album, it uses many different effects such as static effects and intricate harmonies. With everything going on, it almost comes across as messy but manages to pull it off. Next, there’s “Give Me Another Chance.” Expressing a different sort of regret, she wants to get back with her ex. If not handled correctly, the song would have come across as whiny and tired. Instead, with a strong drum beat and the repeated “Give Me Another Chance” in the background, it is one of the strongest moments on the album. The feelings of regret and frustration continue in “What’s the Point,” except she’s with her ex again. Even though she thought getting back together would solve her problems, they seem to have gotten worse. As a song, it’s very strong musically and is only brought down by its strange chorus, which feels clunky and awkward. However, it transitions brilliantly to “Maybe This Time,” thus beginning the final part of the album.
If the first part of the album is mainly emotional confusion, and the second was frustration and negativity, the third is resignation. “Maybe This Time” is her last dwindling hope for the relationship. She is trying to bargain, but it’s half-hearted. She knows that “this time” is an illusion. The anxious feeling is conveyed very well in the song. It is more intricate, and echoey vocals make the listener feel like they're listening to the thoughts in her head. It is followed by “Not the One,” we get the idea that we have moved forward in time. She is taking comfort in someone new. She is very aware that he is not the kind of person that she wants to be with, but his presence is comforting. It’s at risk of being a filler song but is able to be merely understated. In “Hold Me Like Water,” however, the quality increases dramatically. It is ethereal, fluid, and poetic. With standout melodies, epodic lyrics, and a solid chorus, it could easily be the best song on the album. In the song, one gets the feeling she is discovering herself. She is with someone else, but she doesn’t feel any pressure with him. Unlike “Love is a Drug,” it’s not unhealthy, she knows she is growing and maturing as a person. This last song on the album is called “Awful.” In this, the speaker is so close to moving on from her ex, but she is just not able to let go completely. Despite the feelings she describes, we know this is merely a moment of weakness and that this is just one of the stages before she finds herself free. We are content to leave her. Though storywise, it doesn’t necessarily end on a happy note, with a punchy chorus chantlike lyrics and a hazy ending, it’s a triumph of a finale.
“I’m Your Empress Of “ is a success, with its unique and masterful storytelling. While similar to other hyper pop or breakup albums, it sets itself apart with the use of emotions, as well as the blending of vintage and contemporary sounds. Overall, the album is a solid addition to the already impressive discography of Empress Of; anyone who just experienced heartbreak has a lot of feelings, or simply enjoys alternative music will definitely enjoy it.