Saturday, January 22

Self Esteem: Prioritize Pleasure review – Britain’s funniest and most outspoken pop star brings out her demons | Music

TThroughout Prioritize Pleasure, her second album as Self Esteem, Rebecca Taylor looks for a feeling she can trust. Your stomach and your heart rarely align. An insensitive lover makes her doubt herself. An ex’s “casual” texts obviously hide ulterior motives. She has to come out emotionally to reach the climax of a zipperless fuck. Marriage and babies don’t appeal to her, yet other people still make her insecure. Even the nostalgia induced by a hot summer day can trick you into self-sabotaging.

Walking through these quicksand is exhausting. But simply by defining them and recognizing how normal it is for these contradictory states to coexist (especially in women’s lives, contorted by diet and dating culture), Taylor establishes a strong sense of common ground, one in which elements of a The second act of stellar pop is taking shape.

Prioritize Pleasure's work of art.
Prioritize Pleasure’s work of art. Photography: Advertising Image

After a decade in the indie duo Slow Club, in 2019, Taylor channeled her shameless pop ambitions into the solo project Self Esteem. Her debut album, Compliments Please, had an exciting expansion and featured a new, uninhibited voice. The stage name was his attempt to cultivate something where a lot was lacking. With the additional help of a therapist, he said recently, it pretty much worked. That’s very clear on Prioritize Pleasure, an album totally relying on its strange and brilliant vision: if there is a force against all that instability, Taylor hints, it is nothing more than a full-throated expression. During the press campaign, she recreated Britney Spears infamous 1999 Rolling Stone magazine cover; the cowboy hat album cover refers to the Madonna of the music age. You get the feeling that you won’t need to dress like other pop stars for much longer.

Prioritizing pleasure is rare big Pop album after 18 months of comparatively tiny offerings from top female pop acts. The likes of Taylor Swift, Hayley Williams, Lorde, Billie Eilish, and Kacey Musgraves have opted for smaller sounds to telegraph self-acceptance, perhaps implying that competing at that level is at odds with finding happiness. Peace is hard-won, whatever form it takes, and Taylor has not experienced anything like the professional pressures she does, but it is nevertheless heartening to hear her find hers in the vastness and noise; on thunderous drums, blatantly dramatic strings, and huge community choirs rich in gospel fervor and pop catchiness.

Those awe-inspiring elements are twisted by an intuitive production (by Taylor and Johan Karlberg of The Very Best) that seems inspired by the gothic expansion of Beyoncé’s recent albums, but doesn’t really sound like anything else. In the title track, Taylor breathlessly lists his flaws over a choppy, earthy beat: “I shrunk, I moved, and I changed,” he sings, a state of affairs that he immediately challenges with a dizzying and soulful chorus. Beauty and abrasiveness sit side by side: Still Reigning dazzles like a fully saturated sunrise and then cuts off, desolate; How Can I Help You essentially interpolates the growling beat of Kanye West’s Black Skinhead, clashing with Taylor’s frenzied account of her own flexibility: “I’ll never get old / I’ll always be wet / I’ll always be willing / Sit down politely,” she said. He sings in a saliva-spattered chant. It’s a great body record, its physicality reminiscent of how rhythm, movement, and contact are proven ways to reprogram the brain’s neural pathways in treating trauma. Taylor lashes out in shame and fulfills the first brief pleasure of the album in all this synaptic excitement.

Self esteem: I do this all the time – video

Surprisingly, scale is never obtained at the expense of nuance and actual intimacy. Taylor investigates the humiliating and pathetic parts of a breakup that left her face to face with her flaws. She details her desperate compulsion to explain herself too much to other people; meanwhile, she searches for a sense of herself, “out here trying to believe the idea of ​​me,” she sings in Still Reigning. Taylor is 34 years old and her words feel completely vivid. Spiky, insightful, comical, and devastating, they evoke the work of Mike Skinner, Lily Allen, and Alan Bennett if you spent a little more time scrolling through an ex’s timeline.

There’s the untethered connection from Hobbies 2 that’s “turning my back after checking I came … at least that’s something.” Self-deprecating Moody is a cheerleading chant about self-destruction that begins: “Texting the mental health talk seems counterproductive.” There is rage for the loud communal chants in the itch opener, I’m fine: “Do you understand the pain you cause / When you see a body just for sport? I tried to disappoint you so gently / When I had the right to just tell you / No. “Moving between the singing and conversational styles enriched by his Rotherham accent, Taylor appears as that passionate barfly who happens to get up to play an Adele song on the karaoke and leaves the room speechless.

It all comes together best in I Do This All The Time, which, improbably, fuses the influence of Baz Luhrmann’s Arab Strap, Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) and Lisa Stansfield into the song of the year material. Taylor talks about her failures (“Don’t send those long paragraph texts / Enough / No”) with desperation and true tenderness, rambling on the conflicting and clandestine things that men have told her about herself that make it difficult for her to stay upright. . Once again, it is bolstered by its raucous chorus, part of a huge, string-drenched crescendo racing toward a better-imagined future.

Prioritize Pleasure is one of those phrases that has been neutralized by girlboss culture, slogan mugs, and many other ways of allowing people to charitably buy a sentiment stolen by those same money-generating forces. Self-Esteem’s second album proves that it is never as easy as all that. It is a very intense album that some may regress from; confrontational and prone to catching you off guard as Taylor sharply extracts devastating truths from the general darkness of self-loathing, never sugarcoating the severity or overstating his attempts at self-assertion. Despite the imperative contained in the title, the album does not preach but rather invites one to enter, suggesting pleasure as a collective vision born of shared confidences. It’s extraordinary.

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