Shura’s first record, ‘Nothing’s Real’, was one of the more underrated moments of 2016. Sonically rich, and structured flawlessly, it files neatly next door to La Roux’s ‘Trouble in Paradise’ in terms of sheer punch. While it didn’t turn its creator into an arena-baiting superstar, it instead showed the enormous potential of an artist who understands exactly how to spin pop gold, bringing a touch of humanity to everything she does. How many other people have succeeded in making musical meaning out of a ciggie hastily smoked on the Uxbridge Road?
Besides the gripping fear of a panic attack, and the faltering indecision that coloured every turn, ‘Nothing’s Real’ was also a record about being unceremoniously dumped. Many of the songs revisit flawed relationships that fell through the cracks, but three years on, we find Shura madly in love. And, just like the wavering emotion that coloured her first album, love seeps out of ‘Forevher’s every note; this is the story of falling in love against the fractured backdrop of Trump’s America (Shura relocated to the States to be with her now-girlfriend, and ‘The Stage’ tells the story of their first date at a Muna concert).
From the old-timey waltz of the aforementioned ‘The Stage’ to the gently crooned opener ‘That’s Me, Just a Sweet Melody’, ‘Forevher’ has the feel of a wonkily altered classic, drifting from the warm blue pop that colours the sleeve, to quieter interludes. On ‘Tommy’ a elderly widower from Marfa, Texas, speaks about the bittersweet joy of moving forward with another love in a confiding drawl; the song dissolves into a plaintive, plunky ballad. ‘Princess Leia’ takes a dark look at mortality. And the shimmering ‘BKLYNLDN’ – an oddball slice of wobbling Love Unlimited Orchestra gone rogue – basks optimistically in the wonder of Shura’s flawed new home. “We could take the subway, to the beach where there’s a breeze,” she sings, wide-eyed, “’Cause we’re in America – oh yeah!”
The yowling guitar lines of ‘Side Effects’ and ‘Religion (Lay Your Hands On Me)’s synthesised violins feel similarly timeless. Though Shura doesn’t necessarily possess your typical belted-out soul vocal, there’s heart in this record all the same. “‘Cause this is the real thing,” she sings on sort-of title track ‘Forever’, channelling strains of strutting 70s R’n’B. “A place that people dream about”. There’s a campy sincerity to her exposed delivery; where debut record ‘Nothing Real’ was polished to a gleaming sheen, its successor allows itself to crackle and split. It lends this record a certain warmth and vulnerability that ultimately wins out.
Traditionally, love songs are a heteronormative space, and Shura has commented in the past that queer people have developed an automatic sense for inserting themselves into endless straight narratives with the deft switch of a pronoun. A record that beautifully articulates the giddiness of love, ‘Forevher’ subtly queers up the love song in its most timeless form.