With a blend of lo-fi beats and soothing vocals, UMI’s music embodies the spirit of the girl-next-door era. Her work isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of honesty when it comes to the matters of the heart, all to a sound she’s made her own. The 21-year-old singer and songwriter is an expert of achieving what some artists hope to scratch the surface of: Her music’s appeal is because of her raw authenticity, not in spite of it.
In the 15-minute short film released June 21 alongside her third EP, Introspection, UMI asks, “Do you ever wonder what it’s like to see the world through other people’s eyes?” With Introspection, UMI lets listeners do just that by giving them permission to explore her version of the world. She breaks apart her life and all the love, lust and pain that come along with it in the 16-minute record. Introspection is biting, despite being a deceivingly tranquil listening experience.
Title track “Introspection” embodies the longing and confusion that often comes with growing up. “It’s all in my mind, it’s only emotion,” she sings, frustration evident as she meditates on the rules and expectations that come with life. She reaches out to a person for the answers to her swirling thoughts, all while begging for a moment to quiet her mind’s overwhelming emotions.
The subsequent “Open Up” is a guitar heavy, sorrowfully beautiful track. It is a plea for forgiveness, whether it be to a lover or to herself. Here, UMI confronts her inability to allow herself happiness, looking at her own self-destructive tendencies and insecurities that doom her relationships from the start.
“Where I Wander” has similar themes, yet flips the romantic mishaps into an opportunity for healing. Instead of solely focusing on her own journey, however, UMI fights for the hope that her partner does better, too. The track is a reflection on a toxic relationship, channeling its deceptive nature. She’d rather believe in a lover’s potential than part ways with an addictive fantasy. In the song, she makes repeated promises to not leave and even admits that being drunk off a hollow version of love is “amazing.”
When she sings, “And do you really fuck with a girl like me?” on “Bet,” it’s a burning reminder of love’s lasting consequences. UMI is tired of being met in the middle. There’s no room for continuing patterns of damaging her self-worth. Instead, she’s standing on her own two feet, refusing to waver from her newfound strength. In perhaps the EP’s finest moments, she gives an ultimatum to salvage her heart: Do things her way or just simply walk away. It’s heartbreaking and, at the same time, liberating.
Compared to the record’s earlier tracks, “Pretty Girl Hi!” is less about the ramifications of losing herself to love and more about making the most of its mystifying moments. In this track, she allows herself to fall in love with being in love. “Could dance in just our baggy jeans/ We could smoke under the laser beams,” she coos hopefully, relishing in the simple joy of finding out someone’s astrological sign. It’s a salve to the heavier themes of the earlier tracks. She doesn’t peruse through the “what ifs” and instead just heads into love without heeding the warnings she sings of before.
In the final moments of the EP, UMI doesn’t allow any room for emotions to cloud her thoughts. “I tried to give myself away,” she reflects to a synth-heavy “Broken Bottle.” While “Pretty Girl Hi!” concedes to the illusions of love’s simplicity, “Broken Bottle” bleeds the jagged edges of reality.
Introspection’s songs are shorter in nature, simplistic in its exhibition of familiar R&B beats commonplace in trendy songs today. At the same time, UMI masterfully creates a work that captures minute details in her soul-searching journey. Much as the title suggests, the album preserves hard-to-articulate emotions and sensations unique to her life. Introspection is not just UMI’s honest retelling of her life’s stories — it also serves as her moment of catharsis as well.
Contact Kelly Nguyen at [email protected].