Review Summary: burn down the disco, hang the DJ
The pitch change at the end of "Motel" is one of the rare moments in pop – fuck it, in music – I'd call perfect. I mean, everyone from Beyonce to your favourite indie singer-songwriter has used a pitch change, and they generally fall somewhere between 'I don't know how to end this song but people are getting bored of the chorus' to 'if Kate Bush can do it what's stopping me？' "Motel" was not either of those. Those of you lucky enough to hear Make a Shadow
first already knew Myers was not the average popstar – the lung-busting screams at the end of "Heart Heart Head" are all the proof you need of that - but most of us came in with Sorry
, those first few notes of "Motel" our introduction to one of the best pop records of the decade. Lyrically-focused listeners might have had an idea what was about to go down from lines like "you bleed, naked in a black room", but everyone else had their crash course with that perfect final "I wanna love, wanna live, wanna breathe, wanna give", a defiant and triumphant response to the implicit challenge in the bridge.
Take Me to the Disco
doesn't have a transcendent moment like that. That's a tough standard to hold an album to, but it's the standard Sorry
set nonetheless, and in comparison to that album Disco
seems frivolous and vapid. It doesn't help that the music is deeply cloying, drowning Myers' great melodies in suffocating layers of clattering drums and 80s keys; there's not a "Parade" or "The Morning After" to be found where Myers trusts her own lyricism and charisma to carry an entire song. Worse, the subtext – or just outright text - of darkness running throughout her best songs is gone, replaced by weak wordplay (Jealous Sea = jealousy. Get it？) and wannabe-Lorde piano pop anthems. The worst of these, like "Some People" and "Funeral", are so geared towards top 40 play I'd have trouble identifying the artist if her name wasn't right there next to the song title.
This album isn't an outright failure, nor a painful listen; but in the wake of St. Vincent and Kimbra synthesising 80s influence into their music in inspired ways, it can't help but feel like a straggler, or a bigger/blander follow-up which drowns its star's talent under slathered-on layers of cheese and overproduction. At its best, say the genuinely thrilling "Tear Me to Pieces" or electric earworm "Done", Myers gets the lightning back inside the bottle for fleeting moments of inspiration. At the worst, like Myers adopting a stilted hip-hop delivery in the verses of "Tourniquet" or *checks notes* a reggae lilt in the truly awful "The Death of Me", Take Me to the Disco
sounds for all the world closer to Eminem on Relapse
, randomly adopting accents fumbling for the next big hit, than a confident pop star making a thrilling sophomore album.