By: Grace Koennecke, Columns Editor
Grand Jury Music; 2023
Key tracks: “Kill Her Freak Out,” “Charm You,” “Mad At Me,” “Breathing Song”
In 2020, Samia was just getting her start, a budding pop star following the same blueprint as the other young female singers around her. Her debut album The Baby saw her channel the new wave of artists embracing their early 2000s experiences, and helped solidify her career as Samia and began playing for bigger crowds. Recently opening for artists such as Wallows and Maggie Rogers, Samia has had quite a busy year. Yet, her go-getting spirit is still leading her down new roads, especially on her brand new album, Honey.
Read more: “Album Review: Carly Rae Jepsen – The Loneliest Time”
Honey centers around melancholy, evident within the color scheme used for the album’s cover. Samia is cast in dark blue light, her solemn face visible, almost as if she’s looking back in regret. This regret is what kicks off the album with “Kill Her Freak Out”, a satirical song with Samia acting as a psychotic ex throughout. Its emotional high hits the hardest during the song’s chorus, with the singer saying, “I’ve never been this bad, can I tell you something? / I’ve never felt so unworthy of loving / I hope you marry the girl from your hometown / And I’ll fucking kill her, and I’ll fucking freak out.” Channeling the stereotypes usually associated with crazy exes, in particular female-identifying ones. Samia pokes fun at the notion that women are inherently crazy, allowing for the song to be a memorable and bittersweet moment on the album.
“Charm You” is another song that feels like a knock-off Phoebe Bridgers song, acoustic guitar and lyrics full of stories about getting high and falling in love with the wrong person. As Samia’s audience is definitely a teenage one, this song truly has that small-town feel, like you could drive around for hours with your friends singing along and waving your hands through the wind. Even though this track at its core has a theme of self-deprecation and doubt, it still keeps your ears perked for what’s next from the singer.
While “Pink Balloon” causes the album to lose a lot of its momentum (with a change to a piano ballad that doesn’t really flow with the rest of the album), Samia redeems herself with “Mad At Me”, featuring papa mbye. This duet is the ultimate climax on Honey, a flawless track about anger and distrust in a relationship. The singer integrates ukulele strumming and bumping synths to turn up the volume on her inner thoughts, using this production to shout at listeners the questions keeping her up at night. papa mbye also compliments Samia’s vocals, the two creating a duet that makes this song arguably the best on the album.
What this album does really well is its ability to zoom in and out of the catastrophically big and the heartbreakingly small stories Samia is willing to share to listeners; yet sometimes, this strategy causes a rapid change in pace which can be frustrating, especially following a track as lively and colorful as “Mad At Me.” This is clear with the slowness of “Sea Lions” and “To Me It Was.”
“Breathing Song” is where Samia lets her suffering come to the forefront, letting it simmer throughout most of the album until this point of release. This story in particular is one that is a painful memory of loss and mistreatment, with the singer alluding to a possible miscarriage. “Drove me from the bar / Straight to the ER / While I bled on your car / The doctor was mean / But you called him a dumbass / And waited there all night / And then you said “Sorry” / And, “It wasn’t mine, right” highlights this, the imagery so vivid of what female-identifying individuals go through in cases of abusive relationships. Even though the quality of production matches songs such as “Sea Lions” and “Pink Balloon”, Samia’s crying out in the chorus is what makes this track prove to be one of the underdogs on the album.
Samia’s downfall is obvious within the last segment of Honey, with none of the songs really fitting in with the themes present in the beginning and middle of the album. It’s hard to keep listening as tracks such as “Nanana” and “Amelia” see the singer resort to her previous y2k pop sound – it’s not a good representation of her lyrical maturity, nor her true voice. These two tracks should just have been slated for a different project, and while they’re not necessarily bad songs, Samia loses a lot of the seriousness that she intended for the project to emit.
Luckily, “Dream Song” is another folk song on the record that allows for a real sense of closure and reflection. Samia’s vocals are simply just beautiful and whimsical, a sign that she should stick more to this side of her sonic abilities rather than relying on her past sound.
Overall, Honey by Samia is a worthwhile effort by the singer, but still has its red flags, signaling a need for growth. The album is a true testament to the experience of someone trying to navigate their 20s, falling in and out of love and wishing she could go back to the simplicity of her childhood. Although there’s moments that get washed away due to comfortability and lack of pace, Samia still has created a project that stands out amongst her previous.
Listen here: https://open.spotify.com/album/6xQIAbfKyR8HaoJmxTnOHv