On “I’m Your Empress Of,” Lorely Rodriguez– better known by her stage name Empress Of – eschews the collaborative nature of pop music she explored on 2018’s “Us.” On that album, every track featured the work of a new praised producer and songwriter. This album is created solely through the work of four people, with Empress Of taking on all of the songwriting and a hefty amount of the production. It is a rarity for pop projects to see numbers this small, and the album definitely benefits from it.
“I’m Your Empress Of” is at its core a break up album. It was created in the fallout of a rough break up in a respite from a demanding tour schedule. The songs are aching and desperate. The lyrics are raw, honest and direct.
The album is a true body of work best consumed as a whole. The tracks blend into each other in such satisfying succession that it is hard to think of them as separate entities.
Somewhere in between “Bit of Rain” and “Void” is where the break up happens, from there the album launches head first into emotional swings.
“Love Is A Drug” is escapist denial. “Should’ve” is bitter anger poised as regret. “Give Me Another Chance” is a desperate bargaining attempt. “What’s The Point” is giving up.
The emotions are far in isolation, but here they are brought together. Here they make up a mentality and remind us that we are rarely just experiencing one emotion.
It explores the different aspects of healing and finding an identity after a break up. It is a diary of healing. At the end of the first track a high falsetto voice repeats “Now, I need this for me right now / Need this for me, need this now.” This music that follows is as much for Empress Of’s catharsis as it is for the fans enjoyment.
The opening track also has the voice of her mother talking about her experience of being an immigrant and being a woman. In this soundbite and other clips laced throughout the album she explains the difficulties of being an immigrant, being a woman and raising a daughter. These clips elevate the themes Empress Of explores in her songs, they make the experience universal. It becomes representative of more than just this break up. It takes on every set back we face, every struggle that damages our optimism and our pride.
Sonically, the album is dance based pop. But the production is in no way typical. This is experimental electronic music with a sharp sense of pop melodies. It doesn’t rely on these melodies, but it is willing to pull them out to drive the point home. Like the lyrics, the production serves the emotion above all else.
“Hold Me Like Water” is the penultimate step on the arc of this album. It is a gorgeous ballad that is produced with an ethereal beauty that encapsulates the spirit of this album. The track slowly builds, forming a stronger and stronger bed as the singer grows more and more sure of what she is saying – she is ready to explore herself with someone new. Then, at the end it drops out to just her voice – she was enough on her own the entire time.
“Awful” is a deceptive closer. The lyrics seem frantic and inconsolable on their face, but the production is more subdued. This track is the clarity – realizing how you’ve been treating yourself, realizing how you have been discounting yourself.
“I’m Your Empress Of” joins the pantheon of great break up albums with a style completely its own. It is an impressive feat for an artist to articulate such a specific vision so flawlessly. It is even more impressive to see it done with such universal emotions, ones that we are rarely willing to express and share.