Review: Electropop-inspired debut from YouTube star Emma Blackery

[This story was first published online in the Brighton and Hove Independent website on September 12,  2018. The original story can be read here:]

BHI Emma Blackery Villains Review 1

Brighton based pop star and YouTube vlogger Emma Blackery has released her debut album.

‘Villains’, made available on August 31, follows a number of EPs from the artist. Blackery recently completed an extensive UK headline tour in support of Magnetised, her last musical offering. The artist has also toured in support of Busted and played with the likes of Ella Eyre and Pixie Lott.

Blackery’s new music feels very of the moment, capturing the pop music cultural zeitgeist, and listening to Villains as an album brings to mind numerous other female artists. The emotive rise and fall present in Lorde’s music is reflected in Blackery’s moody and textured opening track Villains Pt. 1, whereas Dirt, the following song, has a completely different sound. This electro-inspired track, which is about Twitter drama between Blackery and an ex-friend, is akin to pop-like tunes from Tove Styrke and Dua Lipa. The vibe of Villains’ Agenda, the lyrics of which advocate self-love and confidence, calls to mind After Laughter-era Paramore.

Villains seems to be a continuation of the artist’s departure from her earlier pop-rock sound, moving towards a pop-synth ambience straight out of the 1980s – although the album’s sens of production feels clearly modern. The electropop influence is overt in tracks such as Fake Friends, Petty, and Third Eye, and even in ballad Icarus and the sombre What I Felt With You, her more vulnerable songs. Icarus is one of the songs worked on by Toby Scott (Little Mix, Girls Aloud, The Saturdays), who is also behind Agenda and Dirt.

Pop choruses and easy-to-chant lyrics characterise several of the tracks on this album. The boppy track Take Me Out, which Blackery says ‘deals with feelings of paranoia and isolation after yet another person burns you’, encapsulates the recurring themes in Villains: tensions with the self and with others. This repetition of lyrical theme is identified by Blackery in her Instagram description of Villains’ tenth track, Burn the Witch: ‘burn the witch is dirt’s sister track. it tells the story of finally overcoming the hurt i felt, and making one final purge of negativity’.

Although I can say I didn’t expect to hear the caterwauling one might expect of a track from The Parlour Trick as the outro to such an upbeat, poppy album, Villains Pt. 2 is an interesting counterpoint to the similarly named opening track. Whereas Pt.1 positions the fake friends and jealous onlookers as the eponymous villains, Pt. 2 looks inwards, laying Blackery’s soul bare in what she calls the ‘most honest, personal’ song she’s ever written.

Emma Blackery will embark on an extensive UK and European headline tour in October.

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