10 Songs, 32 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Through most of her career, Lorely Rodriguez, the experimental alt-pop auteur known as Empress Of, has relished taking control: singing, songwriting, producing, directing her own videos. Fittingly, she called her eerie 2015 full-length debut Me, and it sounded, as she tells Apple Music, “very confessional. Almost selfish”.

For her second album, Rodriguez took a more inclusive approach, as clear from the title: Us. “I wanted to invite people into my space and learn from them”, she says. Her tourmate Blood Orange sings backup on the album’s pensive opener, “Everything to Me”; Coal MGN (Christine and the Queens, Beck, Anderson .Paak) coproduced tracks; beatmaking duo DJDS, known for their work on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, bring an optimistic dance-pop bounce to “Just the Same” and “Love for Me” (a vibe they and Rodriguez previously perfected on their 2017 hit with Khalid, “Why Don’t You Come On”).

That brighter, communal feel was partly inspired by Rodriguez moving back to her native Los Angeles after stints in Brooklyn and Mexico City. “I was in the sunshine, surrounded by friends and family, all of the things that I grew up with”, she says. For Rodriguez, whose parents immigrated from Honduras, that meant a heavy dose of Latino culture, and on Us, she slips back and forth between English and Spanish. “That's how I talk to my friends here, that's how I talk to my mom”, she says. “I was exhausted by only having English to express myself in. It doesn’t have the same transportative, romantic feeling”.

Indeed, the Spanish sections on “When I’m With Him” give it an almost uncomfortably intimate pillow-talk feel, in stark contrast to the tight melodies and driving drums that make it Rodriguez’s most accessible song to date. “I accidentally read the YouTube comments on that video, and I had a nervous breakdown for a minute”, she says. “People were like, ‘I miss the old Empress Of. Why is she writing these basic pop songs?’ But this doesn't sound like pop music to me. If you think this is pop music, then I won”.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Through most of her career, Lorely Rodriguez, the experimental alt-pop auteur known as Empress Of, has relished taking control: singing, songwriting, producing, directing her own videos. Fittingly, she called her eerie 2015 full-length debut Me, and it sounded, as she tells Apple Music, “very confessional. Almost selfish”.

For her second album, Rodriguez took a more inclusive approach, as clear from the title: Us. “I wanted to invite people into my space and learn from them”, she says. Her tourmate Blood Orange sings backup on the album’s pensive opener, “Everything to Me”; Coal MGN (Christine and the Queens, Beck, Anderson .Paak) coproduced tracks; beatmaking duo DJDS, known for their work on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, bring an optimistic dance-pop bounce to “Just the Same” and “Love for Me” (a vibe they and Rodriguez previously perfected on their 2017 hit with Khalid, “Why Don’t You Come On”).

That brighter, communal feel was partly inspired by Rodriguez moving back to her native Los Angeles after stints in Brooklyn and Mexico City. “I was in the sunshine, surrounded by friends and family, all of the things that I grew up with”, she says. For Rodriguez, whose parents immigrated from Honduras, that meant a heavy dose of Latino culture, and on Us, she slips back and forth between English and Spanish. “That's how I talk to my friends here, that's how I talk to my mom”, she says. “I was exhausted by only having English to express myself in. It doesn’t have the same transportative, romantic feeling”.

Indeed, the Spanish sections on “When I’m With Him” give it an almost uncomfortably intimate pillow-talk feel, in stark contrast to the tight melodies and driving drums that make it Rodriguez’s most accessible song to date. “I accidentally read the YouTube comments on that video, and I had a nervous breakdown for a minute”, she says. “People were like, ‘I miss the old Empress Of. Why is she writing these basic pop songs?’ But this doesn't sound like pop music to me. If you think this is pop music, then I won”.

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