FEA­TURE

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Em­press Of

IJUST WANTED TO DE­LIVER THEM IN A DIF­FER­ENT WAY — IN MORE A DI­RECT WAY, where if you weren’t there, you could still ex­pe­ri­ence it,” Em­press Of says of the ex­pe­ri­ences that in­formed her sopho­more al­bum, Us. In the wake of her lauded de­but, the gor­geously pro­duced and in­ti­mate Me, Lorely Ro­driguez made a con­certed ef­fort to cre­ate a sense of uni­ver­sal­ity on her new al­bum by col­lab­o­rat­ing with out­side pro­duc­ers to form a more co­he­sive pop vi­sion.

“It’s less re­ly­ing on the palette of the pro­duc­tion, and more on the words that I’m say­ing,” she ex­plains. “I think that’s what it is for me, ’cause [on] the first record, I was re­ally con­sumed with tex­tures and trans­port­ing some­one through the sounds, and on this one I still wanted to do that, but I wanted to be able to trans­port peo­ple through lyrics, as well.”

Ro­driguez uses pre­cise vi­su­als — im­ages of rainy first meet­ings with fu­ture part­ners, sticky rooftop han­gouts in New York with best friends — along with the vul­ner­a­bil­ity that has im­bued her work since day one.

Ro­driguez is irked by some of the re­sponses she re­ceived upon an­nounc­ing the new al­bum: She tells of a fan com­ment­ing “I hope it still sounds like Me!” via In­sta­gram.

“I wrote in the com­ments, like, ‘Why would I make the same thing twice?’” she says. “To me, that is a re­ally im­por­tant thing that I dis­cov­ered with mak­ing a sec­ond al­bum, is that you don’t re­peat the same things: you grow, and you evolve as a per­son and as an artist.

“I mean, that’s why I reach out to peo­ple, be­cause I love their pro­duc­tion, I love their ideas, and I em­brace them in my own pro­duc­tion, and I learned a lot from work­ing with peo­ple like DJ Dodger Sta­dium, Jim-E Stack and Blood Or­ange, that I wanna em­brace. I think a lotta peo­ple think when you es­tab­lish a sound, you have to keep a cycli­cal loop of the same thing, and for me, it’s very im­por­tant to have evo­lu­tion and growth as a pro­ducer and as a song­writer. The artists I look up to, they grow with the times, they evolve in their own way. I think I’m more of that type, rather than mak­ing the same thing over and over again.”

Ro­driguez uti­lized a tried-and-true method for her song­writ­ing on Us, work­ing her songs from soli­tary writ­ing to invit­ing col­lab­o­ra­tors in. “I al­ways write songs alone. I think it’s im­por- guez’s move back to Los An­ge­les, which fa­cil­i­tated her be­com­ing a mem­ber of the city’s Lat­inx cre­ative com­mu­nity in a way she hadn’t ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore.

“Ev­ery­thing is so dif­fi­cult right now in the States, and in the world, and I feel like com­mu­nally, we’re all go­ing through it. I def­i­nitely lean on peo­ple — I didn’t wanna have that not be a part of my mu­sic, as well. Since I moved back to L. A. [three years ago], I found an amaz­ing com­mu­nity of Latin artists that I’m ex­tremely in­spired by in Los An­ge­les. You know, co­me­di­ans, and per­for­mance artists, DJs and mu­si­cians — peo­ple who are me, peo­ple like me, [who] reach for their goals and their dreams and work hard, and that’s in­spir­ing to me, as well. So that’s been a huge part of my com­mu­nity: be­ing rep­re­sented by my peers.”

Ro­driguez de­scribes the process of shoot­ing the video for “When I’m With Him,” a bilin­gual track that is one of her favourite songs. “[It was] shot in East L. A., like 12 min­utes away from my mom’s house,” she says.

She di­rected the shoot, which fea­tures per­for­mance artist Leather Papi, a mem­ber of Chulita Vinyl Club, and “this beau­ti­ful model named José,” Ro­driguez en­thuses. “Some of these peo­ple, I just reached out to on In­sta­gram and was like, ‘Yo, I’m a huge fan of you, I’m shoot­ing this day,’ and now we’re friends, and I’m sup­port­ive when­ever they have shows, when­ever they’re post­ing photos from photo shoots.”

Fea­tur­ing her com­mu­nity promi­nently in her work is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to Ro­driguez, who has been em­pow­ered by it — and in turn, is help­ing her peers gain recog­ni­tion. “If I’m gonna put out mu­sic this time around, I need to re­ally show up and rep­re­sent my­self,” she as­serts.

The fi­nal key to un­lock­ing Us is through the in­clu­siv­ity of its bilin­gual ap­proach — the record marks the first time Ro­driguez has sung in Span­ish since “Agua, Agua,” her Span­ish-sung ver­sion of Me cut “Wa­ter, Wa­ter.” Both of Us’s lead sin­gles, “Trust Me Baby” and “When I’m With Him,” fea­ture lyrics in Span­ish.

“Mu­sic is the lan­guage, English is lan­guage, Span­ish is lan­guage. I feel like when I’m writ­ing a song, and I’m writ­ing a bilin­gual song, I’m writ­ing in three dif­fer­ent medi­ums. I have these three dif­fer­ent tools I can use to com­plete what­ever I’m build­ing. It def­i­nitely feels like I’m able to ex­press an emo­tion I’m try­ing to con­vey more when English be­comes ex­haust­ing — I’ve used it as much as I can — so I feel lucky that I know two lan­guages, be­cause it’s more op­por­tu­nity to be able to ex­press my­self.

“I feel like the world is mov­ing to­wards a more global mind­set, be­cause tons of peo­ple who don’t speak Span­ish lis­ten to ‘When I’m With Him,’ and to me, that’s ev­ery­thing,” she says.

“I lis­ten to Yaeji sing in Korean, I lis­ten to Peggy Gou, I lis­ten to so many artists who don’t sing in English, and I don’t know what they’re say­ing, but I know that the mu­sic is a lan­guage also, so it’s easy to be univer­sal, you know?”

In com­mu­ni­cat­ing her truth by us­ing her tools as a bilin­gual singer, song­writer and pro­ducer, Em­press Of has cre­ated an in­clu­sive record that seeks to bring the world to­gether in just the way that’s re­ward­ing to her.

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