U.S. Girls – “Heavy Light” Album Review

Story posted March 15, 2020 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Jade Campos

Meghan Remy, known by her stage name U.S. Girls, has struck gold once again following her critically acclaimed “In a Poem Unlimited” in 2018. “Heavy Light” is an eclectic experimentation into what modern pop music is and what it can be, pushing the limits that most artists may not dare to exceed.

An album’s opening track is typically the most crucial and responsible song.It sets the tone for the listener’s experience, opening them to a brand new world for the next hour. In a few words, “Heavy Light” hits it on the head.

“4 American Dollars” jolts the listener to life. While many artists are seeking 1980s glam pop nostalgia, U.S. Girls reminisces on Carly Simon’s 1970s. There’s a wistful mix of piano and  tambourines and a funky bassline. The song travels beyond the constraints of a typical studio track, exploring the various layers of instrumentation. This gives the audience the chance to develop a feel for the journey ahead.

U.S. Girls develops this lighthearted, classic sound further as the album progresses. While pianos and tambourines become a staple of “Heavy Light,” the sound gradually becomes darker, as more percussive elements are thrown into the mixture. This growth becomes symbolic of the album’s title: heavy sounds versus light sounds.

Yet, there’s a similar juxtaposition in the “heavy light” themes of the album. The lyrics are far from shallow, but one could miss them if he or she pays too close attention to the cheery instrumentation.

U.S. Girls is known for her experimentation in pop music, so it comes to no surprise that she explores realms beyond a typical pop album with “Heavy Light.” The album relies heavily on the theme of childhood, using short spoken-word songs to reflect on various memories or lessons to be learned. These short pieces such as “Advice to Teenage Self” break up the continuous flow, forcing the listener to come back down to Earth.

However, tracks like “The Most Hurtful Thing” draw context to the entire album. Vague themes riddle “Heavy Light,” which can be applicable to nearly any time and place that a listener can connect with. U.S. Girls rejects the idea that listeners get to make up their own meaning for “Heavy Light.” Instead, she directs audiences to listen to the music based on the scene she is setting. This doesn’t mean the music isn’t interactive though, as the spoken tracks offer listeners a chance to reminisce on their childhood bedrooms and the advice they’d give a younger self.

It’s not just a glimpse into Remy’s life but a look into everyone’s childhoods. Multiple people offer up their voices, though many people offer up many of the same perspectives. All of the hurt that creates the album can be drawn back to one’s childhood, though U.S. Girls makes one realize that their injuries aren’t unique.

The success of tracks like “Advice to Teenage Self” in moving a story and theme along should prompt other artists to take note. Typically, spoken pieces are used to simply move the album along or add depth to a song as a whole (which is used frequently throughout Ariana Grande’s latest project “Thank U Next”). U.S. Girls proves these tracks can be brought full frontal.

There isn’t a lack of cohesivity to “Heavy Light,” despite the continuous pauses throughout. Every song is placed in such a manner that it only further adds to what was said before. The album truly does get heavier as it progresses, making it seem as if U.S. Girls added a different sound as she checks one song off as complete.

This does play into the album’s downfall, however, as “Heavy Light” has the potential to end on a positive note though completely falls flat with the closing track “Red Ford Radio.” The lyrics are thought-provoking, no different than the rest of the album, but there’s nothing that draws the track together. It’s just a heavy drum beat and Remy’s eerie, repetitive vocals.

“Red Ford Radio” is a let down for listeners enchanted by “4 American Dollars,” as she strips away everything that made the opening of the album so strong.

Yet, there is so much that makes “Heavy Light” a groundbreaking album that the closing track can almost be altogether disregarded (unless it begins to grow on one, that is). Tracks like “IOU” and “Denise, Don’t Wait” offer a complexity of lyrics and instrumentation that force the listener to go back and give it another listen.

Looking at the music scene in 2020, it’s clear that U.S. Girls is a force to be reckoned with and will continue to be a powerhouse in the music industry.

Rating: 8/10

Reviewer’s Favorite Tracks: “IOU” and “Denise, Don’t Wait”

Reviewer’s Least Favorite Tracks: “Red Ford Radio”

 

 

Jade Campos is a sophomore majoring in print/digital journalism. To contact her, email jmc7727@psu.edu.