Live in Portland October 17, 2018 | Holocene
Jessie Reyez is catching a buzz. Hot off of several features on Eminem’s latest album, the Canadian singer has been releasing singles off her upcoming album, Being Human in Public, the second album after 2017’s Kiddo, which introduced her as one of the the most unique voices in pop–all swagger and vocal sizzle–and somehow able to fit just as easily on heavy EDM and reggaeton beats (“Blue Ribbon”) as she is on the slow, driving guitar of a classic rock ballad (“Figures”).
The style isn’t without substance either–Reyez occupies the hyper-sexualized space of pop stardom with an undeniably strong presence, spitting in the face of the patriarchal power structure on “Gatekeepers,” probably the most intense song on Kiddo. “20 Million dollars in the car/Girl tie your hair up if you wanna be a star,” she sings. “30 Million people want a shot/How much would it take for you to spread those legs apart?” It’s uncomfortable to listen to, and that’s the point. Her words repeated, swelling in a crescendo of rage against the systemic dehumanization of the women who would be our idols.
In a deft move of track order, the tension is broken by “Colombian King & Queen,” an answering machine recording of Reyez’s parents singing her “Cumpleańos Feliz,” with Reyez laughing audibly as she listens. It’s a touching moment and a reminder that often the best defense against the evils of the world are family, love and laughter.
Her recent singles deal with similar themes–love, loss, heritage and rage. ”Dear Yessie,” the latest of the bunch, finds her repeating a mantra: “This is the realest I’ve ever been,” and for the sake of music, we should hope it’s true.