“Love is the language of the heart/ The language that everybody can understand,” croons Lorely Rodriguez, otherwise known as Empress Of, in two striking spoken-word lines on her latest release. This language of shared human connection is at the core of her fantastic new album, I’m Your Empress Of.
Where previous Empress Of albums, Me and Us, began an exploration of self — in the context of a relationship and among other people, respectively — Rodriguez’s new album uses the backdrop of heartbreak to connect with her roots. Made over the span of a two-month break from touring, the album processes her feelings of romantic grief with stunning immediacy. I’m Your Empress Of is 33 minutes of sweeping electro-pop, full of dance floor-ready bangers that are both deeply, emotionally arresting and brisk at the same time.
Having written and self-produced the vast majority of the record, Rodriguez has taken full control of her craft. As a result, many of the tracks wear their influences, from salsa to house music, on their sleeves. From the off-kilter pop arrangements to the gorgeous vocals, I’m Your Empress Of emits a strong sense of identity, a bold statement from an exciting musician reclaiming who she is with her music. This is an album about who we are, faults and all.
The titular track opens the album, establishing immediate drama. Over a pulsing keyboard and the feathery repeating line, “I’m your Empress Of,” the song gradually intensifies, fading out briefly for a spoken-word segment from Rodriguez’s mother recounting her struggles as an immigrant. “I only have one girl/ But the only girl is like the having thousands of girls/ Because look at how many times she reproduce herself in each bunch of you,” she proudly exclaims before the arrangement swells up again, quickly surging into the next song, “Bit of Rain.” Complete with sharp synthesizer notes and sounds of crashing thunder, “Bit of Rain” recounts the intense attraction between Rodriguez and a partner. The song is impossibly sexy, capturing the urgent sexual tension in Rodriguez’s crystal-clear vocals as she admits, “I love the exchange/ I want you under me.”
The album constantly morphs its frenetic energy into compelling variations. “Void” continues the hot streak with a salsa rhythm and deep bass, recounting Rodriguez’s internal struggle with herself after a fight. The song’s central conflict is juxtaposed with snippets of her mother’s advice: “ ‘Woman’ is a word/ But you make yourself the woman you wanna be.” The song is followed by “Love Is A Drug” — with its ultra-sleek beat and irresistible melody, this standout is sure to be played on dance floors everywhere. When reaching these adrenaline-inducing heights, I’m Your Empress Of achieves pure revelry.
Tracks like lead single “Give Me Another Chance” and “Should’ve” find Rodriguez in the throes of heartbreak, swaying between regret and total desperation. On the latter track, she points out red flags and laments having gotten involved in a past relationship. On the former, she is utterly begging for her lover to take her back. Over a thumping dance beat and radiating synth sounds, she unashamedly pleads, “I’m asking you, baby/ Choose me over her.” Here, Rodriguez’s lyrics pierce through plain as day, powerfully blunt and honest.
The smooth flowing pace of I’m Your Empress Of is rounded off with the closing track, “Awful.” Following the down tempo of “Hold Me Like Water,” “Awful” finds Rodriguez rising from the aftermath. She professes, “I need myself/ Tell me, love, what do I do now after you?” The loud rush of thumping drums instills this track with finality as Rodriguez comes to terms with moving on. The thrilling chorus ends on a powerful note as she shouts, “Nothing’s sacred/ Nothing’s holy/ Nothing feels like when you hold me.”
The song provides a cathartic conclusion to a record bursting with emotion and danceable energy, a celebration of individuality and love for better and for worse. I’m Your Empress Of is exhilarating, filled with layers of emotion packed tightly into some of the most infectious, club-ready songs of the year.
Contact Vincent Tran at [email protected].