Watch List: "Empress Of" - The Empress of Cool
“Don’t kitty, kitty cat me”says experimental pop musician, Lorely Rodriquez. Like an Empress, she evokes directness and defiance to her Empress Of following, but only to a certain degree. She’s just as open for us to engage in her own doubts and vulnerabilities. Which is another reason I can digest her album, Me, so warmly, like a cup of lemon ginger tea. Power albums are nice and all, but to me, it’s more involving when an artist can show mixed emotions and complexities, because even the strongest, including the leaders of our history, have their pits and falls at some point in their lives. Napoleon Bonaparte fell, so will we. Call it a fatalistic statement if you want; it’s as true as the sky being blue. This also explains why Lorely Rodriguez doesn’t give herself the title, “Empress.” “Empress Of” leaves out the conviction but still projects a meaning of strength, a name that fell out of her unique experience with a tarot reading.
Empress Of fell out of a whimsical kingdom, rolling into discovery like sunshine on the Caribbean with her blank yellow, aqua, and multi-colored 2012 Youtube videos, entitled “Colorminutes.” Names of artists she is most closely related to are pitched in the comments: Grimes, Kimbra, and Björk (her self-admitted influence). I’m not sure if she thoroughly enjoys these comparisons as a beatnik in this generation’s music, but this doesn’t hamper her from ambition to create something avant-garde--just like some of her favorite records disclosed in a previous interview: Pet Sounds (The Beach Boys), Yeezus (Kanye West), and Public Strain (Women). She is a rising talent backed by the exciting Dev Hynes of Blood Orange, Kimbra, and Florence & the Machine. To garner this recognition and support, to be on the pretty side of everything, did however involve a lot of grind, isolation, and struggle for Lorely.
Sick of Brooklyn’s gentrification and sucked dry, financially, Lorely Rodriguez found it best to record Me in her friend’s home in Mexico-- in complete solitude. Without a new setting, her musical ideas were squeezed to hindrance in her tight, urban living space. This sentiment comes out of Standard’s chorus, “Ive been living below the standard/ living for the sake of living/I can promise that no one cares…” Kitty Kat also serves as her dissatisfaction with the city’s cat calling. These issues with society, however, fit into a more personal narrative, a concept bringing forth a relationship’s emotional toll on her. Her stunning, undiluted, feathery, voice draws you in fully, without a need to skip her purposely, messy song arrangements. “How do you Do It,” is incredibly made with an appearance of xylophone and synth horns about someone making you feel whole and asking, “How do you do it?” Threat is the most chaotic off the record but still danceworthy. And Need Myself could be the post-break up anthem or mantra we all need: “I just need myself, just need myself, just need myself/ To love myself. To love myself. To love myself. To love myself.” It’s a repetitive message as if she’s giving herself a pep talk in the mirror. As Frida Kahlo had once put it, “I do not think that the banks of river suffer because they let the river flow.” And like Frida, she is an Empress Of her art and ultimately, of herself.