Reviews

Empress Of | Me

By Carlos Lima-Lopez

I think part of my affection for Empress Of’s debut album, which is full of life and energy, comes from the fact that she’s very revealing, and I’m very reserved when it comes to details of my private life. I speak from personal experience, so when people reveal their most vulnerable moments, that’s something not to take for granted. I’m openly private and I have my personal reasons for keeping things to myself (about 4 people know me well, with that, knows me best), so I find it inspiring that Empress Of is using her private emotions as her palette.

There’s a song called “Make-Up”, which is clearly about being in a physically intimate moment. I mean, talking about sex is nothing new these days, but when you tackle it with honesty and vulnerability, there’s a certain admiration to it. Then there’s “Need Myself”, which sounds cliché, but it’s undeniable. Very often, we really do need to tend to ourselves to give ourselves strength and happiness. “To Get By” and “Threat” are frenetic songs where Empress Of realizes that it is best to move from a failed love.

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Lorely Rodriguez aka Empress Of exploded onto the scene with this little mixtape she released online a few years ago. In an interview with Yours Truly, she committed herself to writing a song a day, accompanying with colors and releasing them online. Then, in 2013, she released her first EP, Systems, which I really liked. I thought of her as St. Vincent going on an electronic trip.

Then in the beginning of the year, in a private Converse event, Lorely performed the entirety of her new album, then unreleased, to a small but intrigued audience . I was blown away, as I was already a budding fan. Her energy was boundless, and I remember thinking to myself “wow, she really took Pop music and gave it a shot of adrenaline.”

Now here she is with her proper debut, Me, and it is filled with a multitude of sounds, vibes, colors, beats, emotions and Lorely’s whirlwind singing chops. It’s an undeniably fun record, all while allowing Empress Of to be as open as she can.

Her flair for pop sensibilities is evident in the opener “Everything is You”. It sounds like Bjork taking the Beyonce route, as Empress Of expresses concerns over her relationship. The person she is with is changing, and obviously an abrupt change in character is a shock for anyone. She pleads “not to be this man”, as she wants to stay with him. “Water Water” is nice house inspired song about her trip and isolation in a small town in Mexico. Lorely will say the album is not meant for clubs, but this song would fit nicely.

One of my favorite songs on the album is “The Standard” with its chill atmosphere and hard hitting drums. It sounds like Drake meets Death Grips, as Empress Of sings about the privileges and entitlement rick folk undeservingly enjoy, while she works and lives below their standard.  Also be on the look out for the end of “Make-Up”; the way she belts her vocals need to be heard to be believed.

However, the winner is “Kitty Kat”, the feminist’s anthem to end street harassment. Inspired by a personal experience, Lorely belts her wishes to be left alone in this man’s world. It’s ugly when women have to go through this ordeal on any regular day. I’ve read internet articles, I have heard stories,I have heard the slut shaming from people who believe women deserve this sort of thing for their provocative clothing and being out so late; it makes me concerned and sick to my stomach. “Kitty Kat” is the much needed wake up call to end this fuckery.

Lorely Rodriguez has only been on the scene as Empress Of for a few years, but she has made such an impact on the people she has toured , and has created such much deserved buzz. She has toured with the likes of Florence and The Machine, Kimbra, Jon Hopkins; just to name a few. Her debut album is earning much praise and she recently released a piano driven cover of The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face”. If The Weeknd is aware of her existence, just imagine the collaborations they can make.

Me triumphs as an open diary and a musical adventure. I honestly have a hard time grasping Lorely’s here making music, but she is and I’m grateful. I think another thing that brings me to this album is the fact that she is very shy (I met her once, and she radiated good vibes), which is kind of cool because I’m also very shy. It helps when one shy person can influence another to come out of their shells more often.

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