Standing boldly on the album cover, holding dumbbells, surrounded by tyres – before you even hear BETSY’s stunning voice, you begin to realise that you aren’t dealing with a conventional pop star. BETSY is from rural Wales and somehow ended up working for Balenciaga in Paris, before deciding that music was her true calling. Her entire life so far has been filled with such contrasts, which is part of the reason why she embraces a visual aesthetic which she describes as ‘trashy opulence’.
Her self-titled debut album is filled to the brim with emotional ballads and timeless songwriting. Opening with ‘Little White Lies’, BETSY’s voice immediately takes centre stage and you can really hear how emotionally invested she is in her lyrics, as she belts out lyrics such as “I’m the dark to your bright, can’t hold back the storm”. After all, she’s the one writing them! You’d think that being such an autobiographical record, this album could be at risk of sounding depressing, but the uplifting production creates a nice balance and allows the album to be enjoyed without dwelling too much on the sadness in many of the lyrics.
‘Lost & Found’ introduces violins and almost trip-hop-esque influences into the mix and the album continues to go in an upward, positive direction on ‘Last Time We Danced’, which somewhat reminds me of Marina and The Diamonds’ ‘The State of Dreaming’. She adds some interesting sonic elements, such as vocal manipulation in some places, but not to the point where it becomes off-putting (see Madonna’s ‘Rebel Heart’ album for an example of how this can be done so badly).
‘Heavy Head’ sounds like it was made to be remixed, ready for Ibiza next summer, especially since it features steel drums. But at no point does it become ‘cringy’. In fact, it’s an incredibly catchy tune!
‘Hope’ is a track with so much energy, ticking the obligatory saxophone box and the brass theme continues on ‘Wanted More’, keeping the energy high before ‘You Don’t Love Me’, which is the saddest song on the record. Her voice is loaded with so much emotion and at times, feels close to cracking, but it’s refreshing to hear BETSY’s voice shine through once again without the distractions of the instrumentation.
‘So Much Love’ lifts the mood, although it’s slightly repetitive. The strings are the veins of this album and BETSY’s voice is at the heart, which you can hear most clearly on ‘Waiting’. This record appeals to such a wide audience, from young people like moi through to your mum or even your gran (if she’s cool enough). ‘Body Burn’ is a dramatic ending to an emotional rollercoaster of an album, although at times her vocals on this track are so powerful that it may feel a little bit overwhelming for some listeners…
Overall, this is a very strong and uplifting pop album which takes listeners on a journey, thanks to a well-ordered tracklist. It makes me wish that the music industry would do more to champion pop stars as honest and interesting as BETSY.