Early on in Empress Of’s third album there’s a guest spot from her Mum. “You want to make yourself the woman that nobody is going to mistreat,” she states in the lively, salsa-flecked ‘Void’. “Woman is a word/But you make yourself the woman you want to be”. It’s a powerful message, and one which resonates throughout the entirety of ‘I’m Your Empress Of’, a dazzling statement of who Empress Of – born Lorely Rodriguez – is; both as a woman and an artist.
Written in a two-month break between tours in her Los Angeles home studio, Rodriguez produced the record whilst also processing some serious heartbreak, making ‘I’m Your Empress Of’ deeply personal. It also sees her soaring avant-pop imbued with a new sense of urgency. Whilst her debut, 2015’s ‘Me’, and its follow-up, 2018’s ‘Us’, felt painstakingly planned, ’I’m Your Empress Of’ is more immediate. Lyrics aren’t flowery or overdone, and instead succinctly sum up the emotions Rodriguez was feeling when she wrote them.
Lead single ‘Give Me Another Chance’ sees Rodriguez beg an ex-lover to take her back, gut-punchingly singing “Somebody told me/You’ve got another/I’m asking you baby/Choose me over her” over strutting beats and pulsating synth riffs. And there’s the woozy ‘Awful’, where Rodriguez admits she needs someone, crying: “I need some help, I need some help/I need myself, I need myself”.
But it’s not all broken hearts and thwarted romance. The album encompasses all aspects of Rodriguez life. The dramatic arrival of the title track blends Rodriguez’s dreamy production with cinematic flourishes. Beginning with ethereal vocals singing “I’m your, I’m your Empress Of” and vivacious synth-led production, it features the first guest spot from her Mum, where she talks about her own experience of immigration, saying “It wasn’t easy, not speaking English/It wasn’t easy have to learn it/But I did, I got it”. It’s complimented by a salsa riff on piano – one Rodriguez learnt as a child from her pianist father – adding further brushstrokes to the layered musical picture she’s painting.
Production is kicked up a notch from previous releases, with emotive lyrics spun over titanic choruses. The dizzy ‘What’s The Point’, which sees Rodriguez explore whether a relationship is right for her, is crammed full of throbbing beats and hazy, stacked vocals. Shuffling future floor-filler ‘Love Is A Drug’ – which is in contention for song of the summer – has a hook Max Martin would be jealous of. And the euphoric ‘U Give It Up’, with its joyous melody and pealing vocals, is made for dancing until 6am.
Rodriguez has turned heartbreak into a glorious 30 minutes of club-ready electro-smashes. ‘I’m Your Empress Of’ is nothing short of breathtaking.
Release date: April 3
Record label: Terrible Records/XL Recordings