Illustration by Tanya Bearson
“Smashed my heart to pieces, it looks so good on the floor.” This is the lyric that is used in all of the songs on Princess Nokia’s new album, A Girl Cried Red. This lyric gives all that you need to know about this album. It’s a heartbreak album, and like any other heartbreak album, it can either end up being really good, where you listen to it on repeat for days, weeks, months afterwards. Or, on the other hand, it can end up disappointing your expectations, and making it so that you would rather not listen to your favorite artist’s new album. Sadly, Princess Nokia’s new album fell on the latter end.
The album cover is a picture of Nokia smiling at the camera, while standing in the street and flipping off the viewer. A very typical image for the usually rebellious Princess Nokia. I thought that the album would be like her last studio album, 1992. In that album she sets the tone for how she lives her life: rebellious, adventurous, honest, and not caring about how others think about her. So when you see a picture of her flipping off the camera, you think, “Oh, there’s Princess Nokia, I can’t wait to listen to her album.” But then, when you start listening to the first song, you see the opposite of her last album. Instead of conveying power, she sounds broken, instead of being strong, she sounds weak. So then you think “Oh, well, maybe it’s just one song, maybe she’ll come back in the next one, I’ll wait it out.” For the next seven songs you wait for the familiar Princess Nokia to return. Spoiler Alert: she doesn’t.
It’s not that the album’s message was bad, or poorly communicated, because during the whole twenty minutes of the album, you can feel Nokia’s heartbreak. My problem with the album is that the lyrics and the beat did not match up. The lyrics are sad and about how she had her heart broken. The beat is very happy and is almost reminiscent of 1992. Sometimes a happy beat, and sad lyrics work, but in this case it didn’t. Instead of feeling planned, the eight songs on the album feel mismatched. Another problem I had with the album was how Nokia’s voice was very auto-tuned. In some other artist’s cases, their voices need to be auto-tuned, or sounds better with auto-tune. In the case of Nokia, she has a very unique sounding singing voice that doesn’t need to be auto-tuned. While having a little bit of autotune can never hurt, having too much can damage the sound of the music.
Although A Girl Cried Red was disappointing, there was one song on it that I would listen to on a regular basis. “For the Night” opens with her singing the lyric, “Smashed my heart to pieces, looks so good on the floor.” Then the beat kicks in, which is a trap remix of the popular nursery rhyme “Frere Jacques.” The rest of the song continues with matching lyrics and matching beats. Out of all the songs on the album, “For the Night” is the most similar to her last album. The old Nokia shows through.
Now that we have these two very different albums by Nokia, we need to ask the question, “Which Nokia will show on her next album?” My hope is that the hard core Nokia will come back with a inspirational third album, where instead of wallowing in self pity, she shows her lover that they did not break her. My hope is that instead of letting her heart lay shattered on the floor, she picks it up, puts it on the keyboard and writes some really good songs about how she is coming back. Like every other heartbreak album, the best part of the album, in my opinion, is when the artist has been healed.