We might have female pop stars as diverse as Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, and Nicki Minaj these days, but one thing they all have in common is an army of keyboard warriors ready to hold them aloft with the title “queen”, to the point that it’s lost all meaning. Through these banal plaudits, an empress rises; specifically Lorely Rodriguez in her Empress Of avatar and the very unapologetic, unflinching title Me. (Although, granted, ‘yaaas empress’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.)
“Don’t tell me who I am,” she sings on opener Everything Is You, setting out the ethos for a debut album that ought to go down in alt-pop history. There are few artists who can boast of complex song structures and marvels of self-production – Grimes is one name that springs to mind, and it isn’t entirely unfair to prop up Rodriguez to that exquisite standard.
Take Water Water for example, which blends alt-pop and clubland dance with Rodriguez’s disenchanted yet viscous words. Or the impeccable Standard, where a clockwork beat and programmed strings underline her as she sings “I’ve been living beneath the standard”. It’s not too much of a tangent to think that her distaste for greed and that ‘plate of diamonds’ might be aimed at her pop peers; by accepting anything less than material of this quality, perhaps our own standards need reviewing too.
That’s not to say that Rodriguez is at pains to be worthy and impenetrable. Her songs are structured largely as pop – magnificent, intelligent pop, but pop all the same – and she unreservedly dips into the carnal on How Do You Do It or Make Up (“nothing comes between us but a piece of latex”). But the energy that remains is that of a song called Need Myself, an inventive independence jam that ditches any notion of apology or reliance on anything other than the self. That title is no mistake – it should be read “Empress Of Me”, because Rodriguez is an example of how incredible autonomy can be. ‘Me’ is all she needs, and Me is all we’ll need for quite some time to come.
Me by Empress Of can be ordered here.