Grade: 2.0 /5.0
It’s easy to assume that, at one point, every teenage girl on Tumblr had Suki Waterhouse pinned on their feed. The model embodied the indie, doe-eyed gal that defined the 2010s alongside American Apparel and Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die. Now, Waterhouse is switching gears, moving back into the mainstream with a different approach: the 10-track album I Can’t Let Go.
Since 2016, Waterhouse has released a single every year, with the mysterious exception of 2019. Her 2017 single “Good Looking” most recently found TikTok fame. Waterhouse sings about a “good looking boy,” and her vocals play behind makeup tutorials, vlogs and everything in between on the platform. These here-and-there singles were never anything more, but they did anticipate a more defined musical project from Waterhouse.
What defines Suki Waterhouse? Perhaps that’s the purpose of I Can’t Let Go — to finally implant the model-entrepreneur into something bigger than modeling, side acting roles, a few singles and Tumblr fame. Yet, the listener rarely gets a better glimpse into who Waterhouse really is. Most tracks play like stand-alone love stories, with Waterhouse’s vocals pigeonholed into a monotonous chorus. “Moves” tells the story of a girl ready to make the first move, and “Bullshit on the Internet” sees Waterhouse admit to her own jealousy.
To the brooding, lovesick 15-year-old, the album is perfect. But beneath the surface, all Waterhouse presents is a personality crafted for the male gaze. Patiently, listeners and fans have waited for the album as the key to unlock a more intimate, well-rounded understanding of Waterhouse beyond who she is dating or modeling for. Behind catchy lyrics and an occasional good beat, I Can’t Let Go is one-dimensional and fails to reveal what more Waterhouse has to offer.
“Moves” begins the record with an acoustic guitar beat and Waterhouse’s raspy vocals. The track encapsulates Waterhouse’s coolness through her cadence and distinct vocals, which present the singer as a well-established indie sweetheart. Through the lyrics, Waterhouse admits she has a crush and she’s ready to “put some goddamn moves on you, babe” because she “know(s) you need it.” Beyond the debatably cringeworthy lyrics, the song is one of the best — if not the best — tracks on the album. It tells a story, weaving through still verses and breaking into a powerful chorus and bridge. “Moves” is a relatable, easy listening ballad that greatly showcases Waterhouse’s unique voice.
Other tracks on the record glimmer with promise, but they just miss in their honeyed lyrics or dull composition. Most songs have an acoustic, slower appeal, and though this works at times to enhance the overall tracks, the lyrics and acoustics mostly blend into a weary mix. “Wild Side” has a beautiful country guitar twang and thoughtful lyrics such as: “Love the stories that you tell/ They remind me of myself/ When I was young and loved somebody else.” At first, the buildup is great, but then Waterhouse begins to sing of a “crazy ex girlfriend,” her vocals shifting to a deadpan quality that isn’t cohesive and goes in and out with certain lyrics. Waterhouse’s quirky indie vocals aren’t properly utilized, and because of this, tracks lack any semblance of individuality.
There’s not much more to investigate in I Can’t Let Go, with the record’s title proving the majority of the tracks’ themes. On “The Devil I Know,” Waterhouse defines a tumultuous relationship, but the subject matter is not much different from “Put Me Through It.” Simply, all of the songs are about relationships with insecure ex-girlfriends, poor communication or other mishaps. While Waterhouse attempts to create a well-constructed theme, the album lacks complexity, specifically in the instrumentals and lack of vulnerability that listeners expect from Waterhouse.
I Can’t Let Go is acceptable at best. Waterhouse attempts humility through a comprehensive album of love songs and stories, but her efforts don’t deliver. If Suki Waterhouse can’t let go, listeners will surely be able to.