Our Film Curator Dónal Murray-Ferris reviews the new release from up and coming and devastatingly passionate UK artist ZAE.
ZAE is a West London based, electronic pop artist and according to her official Twitter account (@zaemusicxo) a “23 year old superstar.”
November 18th saw the release of her follow up to the track ‘Like Honey’, a song that wouldn’t feel out of place on an early Robyn album. ‘Letting Go’ tells the story of the difficulties people can experience in relationships and is accompanied by a beautiful video. Shot entirely by a queer team and with the focus on queer love between two men played by queer characters, this is a unique creative experience which was a really important decision for ZAE “…as I myself am gay, and really because I’m all for power to the gays!”. So she is here, queer, and damn right unashamed of it!
The song opens with the lyrics “I have been thinking about the things you said” and continues in that conversational form throughout the track. It is clear from the first few bars that this is a song about someone very deeply in love but also struggling to decide whether it is a healthy or damaging love – a feeling I can personally resonate with. The lyric “can’t choose between my head and my heart” is one I feel a lot of listeners will be able to connect with.
Shot entirely by a queer team and with the focus on queer love between two men played by queer characters this is a unique creative experience which was a really important decision for ZAE “…as I myself am gay, and really because I’m all for power to the gays!”. So she is here, queer and damn right unashamed of it!
ZAE has a hauntingly beautiful voice that suits this type of song very well and is complimented by deep backing vocals that contrast with her soft and calming tone. The lyrics are extremely poetic and you hear the passion behind every word that she sings. It is one of those songs that has the music as an accompaniment to the lyrics and it works so well, enhances the feeling of the song, and fits the mood perfectly. This is a very personal song for ZAE that touches upon a difficult time in her life and the pain she experienced. Overall, it makes for a fantastic piece of modern pop.
I have mixed feelings about the video. ZAE describes the video as “…a stark, stylised piece, shot in all black and white. It takes you on a journey of a troubled relationship between two young gay men, played by two young gay actor/dancers.” It is beautifully shot and, as she said, extremely stylish, but I found elements of the content to be distracting – namely the scenes in which the two male actors did a form of expressive dance. I have never been a fan of expressive dance and failed to see what it brought to the feel of the song, but that is a personal preference that others may disagree with.
The lyrics are extremely poetic and you hear the passion behind every word she sings- it is one of those songs that has the music as an accompaniment to the lyrics and it works so well and enhances the feel song and fits the mood perfectly.
That being said, the video used its time constraints well and explored the complex ups and downs of a difficult relationship in just under 4 minutes – something that a lot of movies don’t achieve in 90 minutes and a massive budget. The two characters clearly have a great deal of love for each other, but are not a healthy fit. Rather than accepting this reality and moving on to new pastures, they cling on and try to make it work. It really pulls at the heartstrings and makes you want more to find out the future of the couple and whether they finally made it work or not. The ending of the video hints that things didn’t end up too rosy for them, but didn’t give final closure either way. To achieve this sense of the audience wanting more in such a short time is a mean feat for any creative team.
ZAE is not the sort of artist I would normally listen to, but after listening to this song for the review, I can say I will be saving her on my Spotify account and seeing what other gems she releases. I also find her grit and honesty from her Twitter account to be refreshing, so I hope we get to see some of this passion in her future releases, and I hope her solidarity remains with the LBGTQ+ creative industry.
Click here for more information on how to buy Letting Go
Follow Dónal on Twitter (@simplydonal)