“I should have fucked your friends/Yeah, it would have been the best revenge for the fire that you started,” go the opening lines of ‘Do You Love Her’ and Jessie Reyez’s long-awaited debut album, ‘Before Love Came To Kill Us’.
As introductions go, it’s an immediate insight into who the Colombian-Canadian musician is: ferocious in both her feelings and talent, unfiltered and extremely powerful. She isn’t messing around in this missive to an ex and you can bet that attitude carries through to the rest of this heart-stoppingly good record.
Heart-stopping is apt, because on this record, the 28-year-old is fascinated by death and mortality. It’s there in the title and infiltrates most of the songs. On ‘Do You Love Her’ she moves from fantasising about revenge hook-ups to dreaming about pulling the trigger on the person who broke her heart. Later, she reunites with Eminem following their work together on his 2018 album ‘Kamikaze’ on ‘Coffin’ – but this time she’s the one who’s going six feet under. “You make me wanna jump off the roof/’Cos I love you to death, just like a fool,” she cries over fingerpicked guitar, her voice rich with unwavering devotion.
Her thoughts come into focus on ‘Kill Us’, a beautiful ballad that posits the idea that love always ends in some sort of death. “Nobody gets out of love alive/We either break up when we’re young or we say goodbye when we die,” Reyez sings as the track builds into an elegant but anguished piece of pop. On ‘Figures’ – her debut single from 2016 that rounds things off here – she’s suffering the first kind of demise, imagining once again about payback.
Not everything on the album is quite as dark though. On ‘Ankles’, she warns an ex over a skittering beat that “these bitches can’t measure up” to her. If that confidence wasn’t enough to decimate her target, seconds later she delivers the perfect execution of a lyrical eye roll, taking a savage shot at our online bullshit: “Strippers and liquor and cigarettes/Apologise but your Twitter says ‘no regrets’.” ‘Dope’, meanwhile, could start parties even if you’d already been raging for four days straight, Reyez boasting “I know I got what you need” over a carnival of distant womps and laser synths.
There are some mediocre moments that disrupt things slightly. ‘I Do’ is one of the least memorable pieces on the record, while ‘Love In The Dark’ lacks the spark that makes the rest of the album ignite. But, for the most part, ‘Before Love Came To Kill Us’ is a beautiful, heart-wrenching debut that sees its creator come good on her early promise. As Reyez half-raps on ‘Deaf’: “I’m taking everything I came for/I ain’t fucking asking.” Only a fool would bet against her.
Label: FMLY/Polydor Records
Release date: March 27, 2020