Bitch: A Feminist Response to Pop Culture - - MUSIC REVIEWS - Sevyn Streeter { at­lantic Records }

Sevyn Streeter does not have much left to prove. Since land­ing her first record deal as a teenager, she’s toured with Bey­oncé, scored a gold record, and gen­tly curved Justin Bieber in her dms. For more than 16 years, Streeter’s mu­si­cal bril­liance has been used to craft pop sin­gles for artists such as Chris Brown, Tamar Brax­ton, Brandy, Ali­cia Keys, Ari­ana Grande, and Kelly Row­land, but on her first solo al­bum,

Girl Dis­rupted, she turns the at­ten­tion back to her­self.

“Livin,” the in­tro­duc­tory track, ex­plains the sig­nif­i­cance of the al­bum’s ti­tle: “I came across this ti­tle, Girl Dis­rupted, and I loved it so much but lit­tle did I know that that shit was ac­tu­ally go­ing to hap­pen to me in life for real.” Drift­ing from a back­ground echo un­til it over­takes the fore­ground of the track, she dis­closes, “I suf­fer with de­pres­sion.”

From the out­set, Streeter is up-front and per­sonal about the con­di­tions un­der which she recorded Girl Dis­rupted. Be­tween the an­nounce­ment of her al­bum in 2015 and its even­tual re­lease, Streeter was steered off course by de­pres­sion, the death of her grand­fa­ther, and a highly pub­lic breakup with rap­per B.O.B.

While these cir­cum­stances are unique to Streeter, the predica­ment is not; lately nu­mer­ous al­bums have honed in on the pres­sure to be a pro­duc­tive artist re­gard­less of per­sonal tur­bu­lence. From SZA and Kehlani to Solange and Jhené Aiko, fe­male vo­cal­ists are re­viv­ing r&b as a ther­a­peu­tic space to heal from a de­struc­tive pop in­dus­try. The reprise of rhyth­mic so­lil­o­quy gives way to first-per­son nar­ra­tives, con­fes­sion­als, and self-re­flec­tion, cut­ting through taboo and stigma around de­pres­sion and trauma.

Be­yond the first song, the rest of the al­bum is not ex­plic­itly tied to de­pres­sion. In­stead, it is con­cerned with the af­ter­math. Her lyrics fo­cus on find­ing sta­bil­ity af­ter hav­ing a world rocked by de­pres­sion. “How do I ad­dress the present sit­u­a­tion?” Streeter asks on “Present Sit­u­a­tion,” con­flicted about how to move for­ward in a murky re­la­tion­ship. Long­ing for loy­alty on “Be­fore I Do,” and de­mand­ing free­dom from de­ceit on “Trans­la­tion,” she seeks clar­ity and re­as­sur­ance from those around her, per­haps to grap­ple with a new­found per­spec­tive on life’s over­whelm­ing lack of cer­ti­tude. But just as fre­quently as she makes an ask of the world, she turns the ques­tion­ing in­ward, such as the way “Present Sit­u­a­tion” ar­rives at the can­did con­clu­sion, “And I can’t lie, I love it/ I can’t lie, I love it/ It ain’t right, I love it/ I wouldn’t have chose this life, but I love it.”

But for an al­bum largely about com­mu­ni­cat­ing, it is not re­ally that wordy—the true strength of the al­bum is in her choice

in col­lab­o­ra­tors and beats. Re­cruit­ing an im­pres­sive crew of guest fea­tures, in­clud­ing The-dream, Wiz Khal­ifa, Ty Dolla $ign, Dave East, Au­gust Alsina, Jeremih, Cam Wal­lace, and Dej Loaf, Streeter shows the strength in com­mu­nity and col­lab­o­ra­tion to carry out a project. Pri­mar­ily stick­ing to the well­springs of r&b, Streeter re­works the hooks, drum loops, and sym­phonic sam­ples from the past for her present mu­si­cal mo­ment. On “Be­fore I Do,” Streeter pays homage to Aaliyah by sam­pling “At Your Best (You Are Love)”; “Any­thing” draws on the hook from the Wu-tang Clan’s 1994 sin­gle of the same name; and the lyrics of “Ol Skool” ref­er­ence the golden eras of hip hop and r&b. Mean­while, “My Love For You” sam­ples MXXWLL’S “4U” and ref­er­ences con­tem­po­rary so­cial-me­dia mo­ments such as the Bow Wow chal­lenge.

Pre­oc­cu­pied with the past and its rel­e­vance for the present, Girl Dis­rupted seems dated. De­spite the range of sounds from angelic, sen­sual bal­lads to pregame thirst traps, the al­bum is pre­dictable. It em­pha­sizes ra­diore­ady sin­gles at the ex­pense of se­cur­ing longevity. A few ex­per­i­men­tal ac­cents out­side of the realm of main­stream hit-mak­ing would have po­si­tioned Streeter as an artist who dis­rupts the sta­tus quo. RAT­ING:

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