Little Simz obviously isn’t a ‘leave the best ‘til last’ kind of person, because Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’s opening and eponymous track is a belter. Released as a single earlier this year, Introvert echoes with roiling drum beats and dramatic flute playing, and the artist’s trademark lyricism hits home every time. In an age where the best songs can aim for a catchy chorus that will blow up on TikTok, you might think that a 6-minute track is a brave choice. But even my shredded attention span is captured, and it’s a perfect introduction to a seminal album.
In fact, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is a lesson in structure. From the first dramatic track, the album climaxes in the joyful Afrobeat-influenced collaboration with Nigerian artist Obongjayar Point and Kill and drifts away into Simz’ characteristically reflective sound in How Did You Get Here and Miss Understood. The narrative arc is tied together by precise interludes, most with the disconcerting tones of Emma Corrin’s voiceover.
Using Corrin’s voice is an interesting choice, and I can’t help but try and dig out the logic behind it. Her posh, assertive tone is immediately recognisable from the Netflix series The Crown, which aired last year and in which Corrin plays Princess Diana. That means listeners automatically associate the voiceover with her breakout role, and that iconic mingling of vulnerability and defiance with which Corrin plays it. Surely Corrin, inarguably a symbol of the establishment, is an unlikely choice for an album so rooted in racism, poverty and black identity? But somehow, the contrast works, and the tracks where their voices collide, like Gems [Interlude] where Corrin’s voice acts as an inner guide to Simz’ doubts, have a kind of divine power. The choice also seems pretty deliberate. Simz takes the face (or rather, the voice) of British royalty and uses it to represent her own inner voice. But more importantly, it brings the exploration of womanhood and female consciousness to the forefront of the album. This is, after all, an album about women breaking out of their role and being more than one thing. Corrin breaks away from her role as Diana to gain a new confidence in her voiceover and become something other than what listeners expect her to be. As the title suggests—sometimes I can be one thing, but sometimes I can be the other.
In terms of Simz’ sound, something’s definitely changed since GREY Area, her 2019 album which garnered her international attention, and even since her 2020 EP Drop 6. This Simz is more adult, more confident in her own voice and in playing around with her style. The pure anger that characterised her earlier work is very much still present, but it’s accompanied by a new maturity and mellowness. This is particularly evident in the album’s characteristically seamless transitions. The switch between Woman and Two Worlds Apart is actually gorgeous, symbolic of how this album can shift between gears without giving an inch. One second we’re confronted with a defiant Simz, questioning everything from global inequality to sexism to internal conflict. The next we’re seeing a different and previously unknown side to her. There’s a vulnerability to songs like Two Worlds Apart: ‘Please don’t tell my mama I’ve been smoking marijuana’ she implores the listener over a zoned out, reggae-influenced backing track. Often, the two sides converge in one track. It’s the perfect blend for an album preoccupied with the multitudinous nature of being a woman, and gives her even more avenues to explore as an artist.
Another thing I love about Simz’ work is the way she challenges tropes of female music. Like, obviously I like screaming Olivia Rodrigo in the shower as much as the next person, but it’s fucking refreshing to have an album so unpreoccupied with ex boyfriends and cat fights. Tracks like I Love You, I Hate You feel especially transgressive. If you’re expecting an ode to toxic love like gnash and Olivia O’Brien’s, i hate you, i love you, then prepare to be shocked. It’s actually an ode to her father, who abandoned her as a child, and includes such lyrical zingers as: ‘Is you a sperm donor or a dad to me?’ The narrative is continued in Rollin Stone, a quietly excellent track that mixes her classic style with rap that barely rises above a whisper and yet holds the emotional power of her louder stuff: ‘Mummy handled business, papa was a rolling stone/ I’m a mix of both, there ain’t no bitch-boy in my bones’. Like the rest of the album, I Love You, I Hate You marks the notoriously private Simz giving her listeners more than ever before. It’s a window into her soul, and fans would do well to take the opportunity to peer in.
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