Fletcher vulnerably navigates heartache with EP ‘The S(ex) Tapes’

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Grade: 3.5/5.0

Cari Fletcher, more commonly known as Fletcher, struck pop gold with her song “Undrunk” in 2019. Her breakthrough hit climbed charts and paved the way for her second EP — a spunky, heartfelt collection of pop titled You Ruined New York City For Me.

After releasing a flurry of promotional singles throughout summer, Fletcher surprised fans by leaking her latest EP The S(ex) Tapes Sept. 9, a week earlier than intended. This characteristic act of spontaneity fittingly reflects the nature of her EP: To put it simply, it’s fearless.

As suggested by its rather indiscreet title, the EP heavily focuses on sensuality and vulnerability. Fletcher’s music has always been crafted with a special intimacy, but The S(ex) Tapes serves as a more developed, intricate map of heartbreak and the repercussions that follow a difficult breakup. Each of the seven distinct songs acts as a poignant stage of grief, fluidly fitting together to form a singular piece of art.

Easily the most honest she’s ever been, Fletcher dissects her heartache with unflinching determination. The singer is adventurous but emotional, gutsy but thoughtful, as she reflects on trying to escape the pain of a one-sided love. Her indignation is palpable in “Bitter,” and she doesn’t shy away from passion in “Shh…Don’t Say It.” And with “Feel,” she splits her heart open and leaves it to bleed. 

Fletcher’s commendable fearlessness, however, can’t quite make up for some of the EP’s less creative elements. Although every track holds its ground individually, a few — namely “Silence” and “If I Hated You” — rely too heavily on exuberant chorus beat drops for attention. This pattern grows a tad tiresome, and it often leaves listeners wanting that signature vibrant pop of energy distributed throughout the entire track. 

Furthermore, “Shh…Don’t Say It,” though a fan favorite, is gutsy in all the wrong ways. It begins with promising, stripped instrumentals that unfortunately unfold into a whispery chorus over an irritating baseline. Fletcher’s lyrical honesty is admirable, but the track still feels like two unfinished songs melded together.

This isn’t to say that Fletcher doesn’t take risks that pay off. The EP’s production features new hard-hitting baselines and thick synths, magnifying the fierce intensity that Fletcher channels in each song. On her overdramatic track “The One,” Fletcher locks eyes with someone across the dance floor; she longingly sings about cheap tequila, dirty dreams and a temporary lover. While the production of the song isn’t quite as refined as it could be, the erratic pauses of the chorus seem to be purposefully jarring — it imagines the blurry scene of a bar, the desire to act on impulses while not thinking clearly.

The S(ex) Tapes takes on a more playful, experimental sound that, for the most part, effectively reflects the artist’s new, sensual motifs. Best demonstrating this is “Bitter,” Fletcher’s sensational collaboration with record producer Kito. Fletcher blasts her ex with tangible resentment, flaunting her lower vocal range during an addictive chorus. Reminiscent of the lyrical parallelism of “Undrunk,” the track’s chain of similes is simplistic but memorable.

Also reminiscent of her previous work is “Sex (With My Ex),” in which Fletcher intimately walks her listeners through New York. Perfectly balancing desperate longing with regret, the song leaves little to the imagination but draws listeners in with a sad nonchalance. The EP’s final, paradoxical lyric tenderly captures Fletcher’s struggle to overcome heartbreak: “Say goodbye forever, until next time.” As much as it is the last flicker of hope for a dying relationship, the song is equally an indication of an ongoing, healing journey.

Fletcher tells her stories with both idiosyncratic insouciance and bittersweet poignancy, woefully untangling a past relationship and attempting to numb her grief. It’s as though she’s picking the petals off of a wilting flower in a “she loves me, she loves me not” scenario, struggling to accept the truth of the latter. Though not without flaws, The S(ex) Tapes is a beautifully intimate portrayal of grief and love from Fletcher.

Contact Taila Lee at [email protected].