LIANNE LA HAVAS: ALBUM REVIEW
Lianne La Havas has said that her newest project acts as a timeline: a journey through an intense period of self-reflection and often sadness into a world where it’s okay to be fine. A major theme on the project is a simple idea that life is not easy. La Havas manages to tell us this message in a variety of different ways, using several different genres. From R&B, to jazz, to traditional Brazilian music, La Havas’ new project never stays still. The only things that stay constant are the beautifully smooth guitar and La Havas’ powerful voice.
La Havas blew up in 2015 with her project Blood, a great, danceable, poppy R&B album. Blood was an incredible album, but on the whole was relatively traditional. Most tracks off of the project would have sounded at home on any major R&B or pop station. What set Blood apart from other pop albums was La Havas’ voice. She was able to slide between absolute powerhouse bangers and soft-spoken indie-leaning songs with ease. Her, newest, self-titled, album moves away from the pop radio sound. Now, she drifts further into the music that has always influenced her and the presence of these influences makes her newest project feel her most honest yet.
The album opens with the song “Bittersweet” which sets a fiery tone for the album. This track truly stands out on its own, a five-minute statement-of-intent for the album. On “Bittersweet,” La Havas first introduces the idea of being born again. On this project the idea of rebirth constantly resurfaces. She takes us through the journey of learning that something is wrong and then going through the painful changes that need to be made to fix any problem. The personal rebirth that she talks about is an intensely lonely experience and La Havas makes that clear from the opening track that she was going through this alone. “Bittersweet” is also a perfect word to describe the feeling of the album in general. Even though the happiest moments on the project, there is an aching in La Havas’ voice.
The second half of the project is where La Havas fully describes the struggle she has been through in the past couple of years. The first half is filled with little hints at what is to come, but everything after the song “Out of Your Mind” in the tracklist is heartbreaking. The song “Seven Times” opens with the lyrics, “You didn’t pay your rent, so I guess you’ll be leaving.” The entire song is about a cycle of sadness and forgiveness. On the song, she addresses what it means to leave and to have someone else leave. The very next song, “Courage,” portrays the period after the move-out with La Havas singing “I’m lost and overcome by the memory of everything we were but will never be.” You can hear the loneliness in her voice. The song gives you the feeling of being deep down in a hole with no clear way out.
The key to La Havas’s album is that it never feels depressing. Even when all feels hopeless La Havas still points out beauty everywhere. La Havas does a fantastic job of pointing out the small moments of beauty she sees in her partner, like on the song “Paper Thin” where she says “But you're not the only one who's suffering. That's enough, I know you're made of better stuff, baby you gotta roam free, please don't forget about me.” Even in the midst of relationship troubles La Havas still makes the love that was there apparent. Everywhere in this album, there is love and change, which leaves you with such an uplifting feeling by the time it’s finished.
Lianne La Havas shows so much evolution between each project and hopefully, this album will keep her at the forefront of any conversation about R&B for many years to come. Her newest album is a masterclass on how to curate and create an album that effortlessly glides between genres and shows La Havas’ power in an authentic way.