Throughout the history of pop music, there has always been a strong push for the genre in Europe. This is equally true in pop’s most recent resurgence with gems like the Norwegian Sigrid or the Swedish Tove Lo and Tove Styrke. Enter bulow, a 19-year-old German-Canadian alt-pop singer/songwriter. Megan Bulow, known professionally as bulow, travelled all around Europe and the US growing up and is currently residing in the Netherlands. This widespread exposure to pop has obviously impacted her music, which is a unique blend of dark, raspy vocals and moody, trap production.
Bulow came onto the scene with a two-part EP series titled “Damaged Vol. 1” and “Damaged Vol. 2,” in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Each project was composed of three tracks. Her breakout single from these projects was “Not A Love Song,” a moody anthem about standing up for yourself in a relationship. Earlier this year, she dropped another, longer EP titled “Crystalline,” which features a mix of slower, softer songs like “Word Smith” and more active dancy tracks like “Get Stupid,” all while maintaining the darker tone of her lyrics and production.
Now she has returned with another shorter project titled “The Contender,” which features the single “Boys Will Be Boys.” The project, which consists of only five tracks, still manages to maintain bulow’s signature (darker) sensibilities but introduces newer, more polished and trappier beats.
The EP kicks off with “Own Me,” a rebellious song about asserting one’s freedom and desire to escape. I couldn’t help but compare the production and flow of bulow on this track to Lil Peep’s “Benz Truck.” The track’s sharp snares and heavy bass accompanied by a heavy strumming guitar create an engulfing melancholic atmosphere that the rest of the EP upholds.
Next up is “Boys Will Be Boys,” a shorter track mocking the saying passed out as an excuse to defend younger men’s problematic behavior. This is probably the bounciest track on the project, with a lighter guitar riff serving as the basis for the accompaniment as bulow bemoans the immature boys she’s had the displeasure of dealing with in a fairly fun and playful way.
“Puppy Love” is the track I have found myself returning to the most from “The Contender.” It’s another lighter, more pleasant track. The quick drum beat keeps the song moving and makes it a perfect to listen to while driving. The song features a verse from Jimi Somewhere, an up-and-coming indie rapper, who adds some variety to the song and elevates it to one of the best on the EP.
The album wraps up with “Upside Down” and “Sundress,” which are the longest and shortest songs on the project, respectively. “Upside Down” is the emotional low point of the album. The dark and wandering track finds bulow lost and contemplating the effects this boy has on her and how it’s confusing her and tearing her apart to deal with it all. “Sundress” follows quickly and brings the album even lower as bulow worries she’s made a grave mistake with her partner that she can’t come back from.
Overall, it’s not an upbeat project, but it is a solid piece of emo pop that I would recommend to any fan of the genre or of sad, slow hip-hop.