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[Album Review] Becky and the Birds (Self Titled) [EP]

These days, originality is a hard thing to come by and if there ever was a more guilty genre to display this, modern pop and R&B sits at the very top of the list. Unfortunately, when taking into consideration the sheer oversaturation of the genre combined with the modern music talent show phenomenon that seems content in endlessly manufacturing “new” and “fresh” faces in an already overcrowded industry, being original often seems to be a rather low priority compared instead to how marketable an artist can be. This being said, there are of course those that seek to deviate from the tried-and-tested and aim for something genuinely interesting, and this is where Swedish producer/artist Becky and the Birds starts to come into focus.

Combining sweetly delicate vocal delivery, soaring and soulful backing melodies, and a utilization of gently mellow instrumentation that feels far more organic compared to the digitalized soundscapes of her contemporaries, Becky and the Birds’ focus throughout her debut self-titled EP seems to be very much on the personal. Be it the vulnerabilities explored lyrically throughout ‘Concept Store’, or the delightfully self-aware ‘Becky’ (an introductory skit that sees Becky and the Birds’ awkwardly describing a tame, “adult” lifestyle, even going so far as to mention her clothes being “all combustible”), there’s clearly very little regard for the overly-sexualized attitude of the modern generation to be found here.

Now sure, the upbeat and slightly seductive ‘Die While You Love Me’ could stand comfortably next to the likes of Aaliyah, while the EP’s critically acclaimed ‘Holding On’s sprawling, luscious aesthetics and uplifting chorus could easily make its way into a playlist full of Zara Larsson or Ellie Goulding, but it’s worth acknowledging simply how innocent Becky and the Birds seems by comparison. Take ‘Die While You Love Me (intro)’s sampled spoken admission of wanting “to die while you love me”, and in that knowing someone will “mourn me”, for example. For a generally more upbeat, romantically driven pop/R&B track, having such a sombre introduction brings things into a far more emotional context, focusing less on the thrill of a romantic crusade and more on the raw admission of simply not wanting to die alone – a concept that’s hardly alien to any of us.

If the delicate approach taken by Becky and the Birds wasn’t proven enough with ‘Die While You Love Me’, then you needn’t look much further than the beautiful ambiance of ‘Malaysia’, a short track devoid of any true beat or percussion and instead fuelled nearly entirely by a sweetly layered acapella, with a few little additions of bass and texture to enhance the vocalist’s gorgeous delivery. If not ‘Malaysia’, then take the stand-out ‘Concept Store’: easily the producer/artist’s most enthralling track of the EP and basking in wonderfully mellow basslines and minimalist hip-hop percussion. Lyrically, the track sees Becky and the Birds at her most exposed and benefits fantastically from it.

As a whole, Becky and the Birds offers a shining peek into the mind of someone with a lot of soul to offer, and a lot of emotion to give while approaching her chosen genre with a huge spark of inspiration and creativity. As a debut, it tells all that needs to be told to introduce Becky and the Birds as an artist, flourishing in stunning instrumentation that neither overwhelms nor distracts from the appropriately gentle, songbird qualities of the vocal delivery. Ultimately, the EP easily stands as an assertive, confident statement of exactly who the Swedish producer/artist aims to be musically, and proves itself a promising opening chapter for what comes next.

Mark Stoneman
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