Review Summary: my life in my hands, a good place to start
You might better know her as Robin from the hit Netflix series Stranger Things
, but it turns out that in addition to being an outstanding actress, Maya Hawke can also sing. The daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke delivers what she calls “a collection of secret messages, hidden communications with the people in my life” on Blush
, which marks her first proper LP.
has a quiet confidence in its stride, surrounding Hawke’s voice with very little as she does her best Norah Jones impression (the jaunty electric riffs of ‘Animal Enough’ and upbeat country swagger of ‘Crickets’ notwithstanding). The bare arrangements are a complement to her voice, which is nimble enough to meander through all of the record’s introspective verses while also retaining enough power to deliver the occasional knock out chorus. Carefully paced drumming and accentual guitars are the respective flavors of the day instrumentally; nothing here is meant to be flashy enough to detract from the words at hand.
Maya’s secret messages to the people in her life range broadly, but are centered around romance: from suppressed longing (“I'd hold you like soft water holds the sun against the sky / I know that she loves you, so I wouldn't dare to try”) to feelings of completion (“I have nothing to say about love anymore / Love is nothing, I am yours”). However, Blush
is at its most illuminating when Maya sings to or about herself – an interesting notion considering that the concept of these songs are “hidden communications”. Accompanied by one of the best pure melodies on the record, Maya sings somewhat disenchantedly “I prefer my dreams of you / To anything you'd ever do” on ‘By Myself’ and it feels like a revelation. We all have goals and aspirations, but here Hawke seems afraid of never fully realizing her potential. It’s a theme she revisits on ‘Coverage’, which addresses how acting can dilute your sense of self: “Growing up a memory, becoming who I used to be / Cover me, uncover you…is that really what I'd do?” What Maya is signing about here is uncovering other characters’ identities as she further buries her own; in an interview with MTV news about this song specifically, she stated: “As an actor, you navigate and spend so much of your life and energy living in other people’s stories, living in other people’s imaginations, love affairs, and the lives of the characters that you’re playing, it can become confusing to your own sense of reality. And if you’re comfortable with your own sense of self, such as living in these dreams of fantasies, are you really ever fully alive in your own life?” So while Blush
is by many measures a diary about important people in her life, it’s essential to realize that she’s one of them.
explores the inner workings of Hawke’s mind – one that is weighed down by the pressure of expectations, be it relational or self-imposed. I’m immediately reminded of the opening verse from ‘Animal Enough’, in which she sings “No one is animal enough to take up the space in my mind that I don't wanna occupy”. If there’s a central motif on Blush
, it’s Hawke grappling with the aspects of her own life that she either can’t or isn’t willing to confront. Her musical debut ends with one of her most muted ballads in ‘Mirth’, and at one point she emphasizes “my life in my hands, a good place to start”. It feels like the closest thing resembling a solution to her myriad questions and it is to be assertive, be proactive…to dominate the vision you have for your life rather than allowing it to be shaped by external influencers. Submersing herself in this project as an outlet for her doubts is a mighty fine way to start.