Intimate and electric, Emma Blackery’s debut album Villains stuns, and shows you exactly why she should be at the top of all of your playlists.
Emma Blackery’s debut album Villains has been a long time coming. She began making music at 18 years old, and then in 2012 she created her YouTube channel, which to this day still boasts over one million subscribers, and since its creation six years ago it has been steadily growing. Fans have been able to watch Blackery’s career go from strength to strength with the release of five incredible EPs, yet Villains marks the start of a whole new chapter.
The opening track Villains Pt.1 drips with danger and threat, and Blackery’s lyrics exude a powerful vibe that says that she is not someone to be messed with. There is tension in the opening notes as the instrumentals quickly build up before Blackery’s voice enters, though the drum beat playing in the background reminds you that there is still something dangerous just under the surface. The menace breaks out with the chorus and Blackery’s deep, crooning vocals that share a likeness with ‘Born to Die’ era Lana Del Rey and are just as hypnotic. Pt.1 deals with the desire for revenge and power, and emotive lyrics such as “because you set yourself on fire just to light up the room” captivate the imagination. She’s creating a story with this track. Blackery has written a song about the villain that we can all understand, about the villain that we kind of want to see come out on top. It’s a powerful track, and a great way to open the album, and since I first heard it I haven’t been able to turn it off.
Dirt takes on a very different vibe. As one of the pre-released singles from the album I’m sure many will already be familiar with its synth-pop dance feel, and sassy insults. This single lends itself completely to be a bitter yet cheerful breakup song and performs the part well with the colourful jibes at the ex, as well as with the happy-go-lucky beat. On top of this, there’s a sense that this song could have been pinched directly off Twitter, what with phrases like “I’ve got tea for two”, “I’m serving some shade”, and “I’m the bitch who keeps her receipts”. Dirt is completely modern, utterly enjoyable, and above all, feisty.
Agenda, another pre-released single, is light, bouncy, and airy. Blackery’s voice is sweet and melodic and delivers an overall message of self-acceptance and moving on. In this post-breakup, synth-pop track she sings about finding her confidence once again and in doing so creates an anthem for getting over heartbreak. “I’m better without you and that’s the truth” is simple yet effective, and I’m sure that Agenda is already a feature on many post-heartbreak playlists.
Blackery called fifth track Icarus a “song I wrote as a letter to myself” after coming to the realisation that online public feuds were neither the best nor the healthies response to criticism. The single is all about taking the high road and rising above the people that try to tear you down and features a far more innocent sound that any of the previous tracks. An electronic drumbeat at the beginning lulls you into a song which has a far more pensive, musing quality, and in the stripped-down ballad Blackery appeals to the self she calls Icarus. It’s a touching tune that shows more diversity of theme within the album and is not a track to be skipped over.
I like Third Eye, and when I say that, I mean that I really, really like Third Eye. It’s a beautiful mix of synth notes, 3am club dance music, with an extra-large scoop of top tier emotion. Blackery manages to make her voice sound desperate, pleading even, without letting it become overpowered by the backing track, and it dominates. She asks herself the question “What do you want from me?” again and again, the repetition emphasising the confusion and insecurity that comes from an unhealthy relationship. Again, we are given a song about a relationship that is less than perfect but what makes Third Eye stand out amongst others like Dirt or Agenda is that in Third Eye Blackery sings about the present. While Dirt looks back on unhappiness with the relief of having moved on, Third Eye takes place during the absolute worst part of it, and its results are emotionally charged and stunning. It is impossible to ignore this track.
What I Felt with You is whispery and sombre. It speaks to anyone who is over, but not really over, their ex with lyrics like “I want to know how you’re doing, but I don’t really want to ask, in case you’re happier now and I don’t think that I could handle that”. Blackery is down to earth and realistic about the struggles that come with breakups, and the vulnerability she shows through this song is touching. The line “I hate the colour blue ‘cos that’s what I felt with you” is particularly heart wrenching. The closing note sounds like a breath. It could be Blackery breathing out for all I know, and it sounds like letting go. What a great way to end the song all about the feelings that remain whilst you’re trying to move on.
We come full circle on the last track with Villains Pt.2 in more ways than one. Not only is the track title repeated like a sequel, but Blackery seems to have come on a journey from the first to the last. Pt.2 sees her try to accept the role she has played in her own downfall, and realising that she too can be the saboteur of her own story, as well as claiming that “I tore up my list, I threw it away”, referencing Pt.1. To me, the opening instrumental sounds like it wouldn’t be out of place played at the start of a Stranger Things episode, and the electronic beat continues to play as Blackery’s voice enters in, both elements gradually growing, getting stronger, until suddenly she is screaming. Her voice is raw, unfiltered, and at points you can hardly hear what she’s saying, but it doesn’t matter. The emotion in this song is unbelievable and in the final track you hear just what Blackery’s usually gentle voice is truly capable of, and I can’t get enough of it.
Without a doubt Blackery takes us on a personal journey with this album. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the first few songs exude a far more positive, confident vibe than the later songs. It’s as if she stats with the upbeat tracks about being better off because that is the front that she chooses to show to the world, but then as you get further into the album the more vulnerable, heartbroken songs come out. The more you get to know her, the more is revealed about her insecurities and fears. While tracks Fake Friends and Burn the Witch may not have left me with any lasting impressions, I find the rest of the album faultless. It is brave, beautiful, and honest, and will definitely be one that I’m listening to for a long time to come.