By: Chris Chiu
After releasing “Hideaway,” arguably one of the biggest tracks of last summer, Kiesza returns with Sound of a Woman, her debut album that offers the same intensity and sound that made her an instant hit and proved her overwhelming potential.
I’ll be honest – as soon as “Hideaway” came onto the radio scene during the summer, I immediately doubted Kiesza’s career. Would she be a one-hit wonder and fade back into obscurity? Would she “sell out” and change her style into the manufactured, predictable, made-for-radio sound like so many before her? These questions were answered loud and clearly in Sound of a Woman: no. The album squashes all of these doubts, as the resulting product is polished, smart, and enjoyable.
In particular, Kiesza’s sound blends together a variety of influences that help create something both vaguely familiar, and entirely original at the same time. Although not primarily an EDM/House album, many of her songs are heavily influenced by this realm of music. Often big names such as Avicii or Steve Aoki, the EDM artist receives the credit, with the vocals being pushed into the shadows, so it is refreshing seeing the vocalist be the centre of attention on house tracks.
Due to its heavy house influence, quite a few tracks on her 13-song debut have infectious beats, so expect to hear remixes of these songs for the club real soon. Shifting away from the realm of house music however, Kiesza also experiments with dashes of pop, R&B, and hip-hop, creating a unique and complex listening experience. These unique dimensions allow for an album that is just as enjoyable to listen to while studying as it is on the dance floor.
Despite this, Sound of a Woman suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. Half the album gives off a “stop-everything-and-dance” vibe, while the other half seems to ask listeners to “stop-everything-and-think-introspectively.” “No Enemiesz,” “Giant In My Heart,” and “Over Myself” are perfect for a club night or a fashion runway, but tracks like “So Deep” and “Piano” are sensual, heartfelt, and low key – making it more appropriate for studying or a night with your significant other. The juxtaposition between these polarizing sounds causes the album to feel confused, and makes me wonder if Sound of a Woman would be better divided between two separate albums. Still, this choice doesn’t affect the quality of the songs on their own however, as taken separately most songs are masterpieces on their own.
Although Sound of a Woman left me emotionally confused in terms of its direction, Kiesza’s talent is not to be undervalued. The way she belts out the opening notes of “The Love” immediately demands the listeners attention, while producing a rawness and sheer power that is reminiscent of Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine. This talent continues on the other side of the vocal spectrum, as her raspy whisper in “So Deep” lures you in with a siren-like quality.
The production choices in this album are also noteworthy – especially in her slower, sensual songs. “So Deep” has an incredibly catchy, throwback 90’s R&B vibe that evokes memories of the late Aaliyah. “Piano” is very minimalistic, but the tuned percussion manages to create sexy, interesting textures reminding me of James Blake and Jessie Ware. With two of her R&B tracks, she even recruits two emerging powerhouses in the indie rap game – Mick Jenkins and Joey Bada$$ – who both deliver witty, tongue-twisting verses. The success of these partnerships makes me question why Kiesza hasn’t explored the R&B side genre further – rather than house – as that is where Sound of a Woman is most powerful.
It is important to remember that this is only Kiesza’s first album, and at the tender age of 25, she still has plenty of time to find and perfect her sound. Flaws aside, I would still definitely recommend this album. Whatever Kiesza decides to end up pursuing – R&B or House – we can all breathe a little bit easier knowing that the genre will be in good hands.