Thursday 29 August 2019

throwback thursday #1: sky ferreria - night time, my time

nobody asked for it but here it is: a brand new series called throwback thursday, in which i discuss some of my favourite albums from years gone by. 

as time is hurtling by at a disturbingly rapid pace, i find myself reminiscing about the albums my teenage self loved between 2007 (!) and 2014, and after re-discovering some of them on my old ipod (!!) i felt compelled to take a break from my usual new music focused posts and write about them. 

*peter dickson voice* in no particular order, the first album i've chosen to write about is sky ferreria's iconic 2013 debut, night time, my time. 

this was inspired partly by her recent collaboration with charli xcx and an ongoing sense of frustration that her follow-up album has yet to materialise. 

but first, some background: ferreira first came to public attention as a model sometime around 2010, and her single one was released in august of that year with a fresh-faced, brunette sky on the cover. a fan of all things electronic - bearing in mind this is when lady gaga was revolutionising pop as we know it - i instantly downloaded it to my ipod. 

obsession followed in september, accompanied by an incredibly homemade looking video; this one also made it onto my ipod and i remember playing it endlessly. 

from there, sky's career trajectory was anything but smooth. a series of disputes with her record label and frustration over her creative direction meant her debut album wasn't released in january 2011 as planned and an EP called as if! was released in march that year instead. 

i was totally unfamiliar with it before i started writing this post, but listening back to the tracks, it's clear why sky hated her early work, something she talks about in one of her early interviews for notion 

though it retains the electro-pop sound favoured by gaga, robyn and marina around that time, the lyrics feel like they were written by a 45-year-old man trying and miserably failing to conjure up that same magic. 

according to wikipedia, ferreria's label EMI retained complete creative control over her, but it seems their efforts to mould her into a "perfect little pop robot" were unsuccessful and after they lost money trying to promote obsession, the budget for her debut album was cut. on reflection, that seems like the best possible outcome for sky, who clearly wanted to cultivate a more alternative sound. 

after a few more stops and starts, she released a second EP in 2012, titled ghost. immediately i gravitated towards sad dream, a stripped back acoustic track that sees sky reminisce about the strained relationship with her father. i remember playing it on repeat in the middle of the night, dreaming about crushes who didn't even know i existed. 

another highlight was everything is embarrassing, a sentiment that definitely resonated with my teenage self in my clumsy interactions with said crushes. though still very much in the realm of electro-pop, there's something much cooler about the dev hynes-produced track

lost in my bedroom is also backed by a heavier electronic beat that wouldn't look out of place on robyn's album body talk, while ghost sees sky at her most melancholic, channelling born to die-era lana del rey

not keen to stop experimenting there, red lips embraces the grunge sound of garbage frontwoman shirley manson, who was a songwriter for the track. 

while the overall direction of the EP was unclear, there was definitely something for everyone and it was a much-needed departure from the sickly sweet pop being pushed onto sky by her label. 

it would be another year before her debut album finally made its way into the world, but it was well worth the wait. 

lead single you're not the one remains one of my all-time favourite songs, yet another one which soundtracked the endless hours i spent dreaming about unrequited crushes. production-wise, things had definitely evolved from her early releases, featuring the cure-esque guitar riffs and a thumping bassline. 

sky described you're not the one as a "super-poppy version" of david bowie's excellent 1977 album low and upon reflection i can certainly hear traces of his work in the song; anyone who references bowie - especially his early albums - is instantly in my good books. 

elsewhere, the album sees sky processing the public's perception of her, particularly on the track i blame myself. as someone who's had anxiety pretty much my whole life, this track hit a bit too close to home, especially the line "how could you know what it feels like to be outside yourself?" because when i'm in an incredibly anxiety-inducing situation, i tend to disassociate, my thoughts in another place entirely. 

nobody asked me (if i was okay) also resonated with me for similar reasons as i've always struggled to ask for help and on the rare occasions when i did it felt like nobody was really listening, quick to dismiss my worries and tell me to "get over it". the third verse feels especially poignant as sky complains that "you don't seem to care if i'm feeling lost"

in times of uncertainty - of which there were many - this album felt like one of the only constants in my life, and the title couldn't be more spot on, as it's one that just begs to be played through headphones in the dark of night while everyone around you sleeps. 

while there are some lighter moments on the album - see: boys, 24 hours and love in stereo - my favourite track has always been heavy metal heart, arguably one of its most dramatic moments. 

flawless from start to finish, it's actually a fairly heartfelt song underneath the heavy production, as sky tells her lover how much they "make me feel the pulse of my heavy metal heart". she also speaks of how she loves "losing myself in the dark"; exactly what this album was designed for. 

in the impeccable bridge, sky declares that "the way i was before, i'm not her anymore", which could be a reference to how much her image had evolved from her very first release, both musically and aesthetically. 

the cover of night time, my time featured an image of sky in the shower, and while her decision to appear topless was a defiant one that demonstrated her lack of innocence, there's still a sense of fear in her eyes, perhaps about how this radical new look and sound would be received by fans and critics alike. having been shelved by her label numerous times, the youthful naivety was all but gone, her long wavy hair replaced with a short peroxide cut. 

while ferreria isn't the only artist who's faced difficulty conveying her creative vision, her unwillingness to conform to what was expected of her - both as a young woman and a pop star - at a time when super-polished stars like katy perry and beyoncĂ© dominated the charts certainly reflects the way independent artists were treated in the mid-2000s. 

with social media still in its infancy and years before having a "personal brand" was considered important, sky's struggles with her label seem a world away from the hordes of artists who now have the freedom to release music independently, such as dorian electra and kim petras, who have amassed huge fan bases through social media and without relying on a major label. 

sky's defiant streak shone though on i will, as she warns anyone who ever doubted her that "i'm gonna teach you a lesson", a sentiment i also tried to embody as i left school and attempted to embark on my own career away from everyone who asked me why i "didn't talk". 

this track really is the best of both worlds; the electro-pop from her early songs merges perfectly with the scuzzy guitar riffs that came to define night time, my time, resulting in yet another exquisite bridge. 

sadly it wasn't all plain sailing for sky after the album's release. while she received critical acclaim for her efforts and supported miley cyrus on her 2014 bangerz tour, she was also arrested alongside her now ex-boyfriend - DIIV frontman zachary cole smith - for drug possession. 

the following years saw her star in a couple of films and become the face of jimmy choo's illicit fragrance, but she continued to reassure fans that her second, "more aggressive" album masochism was on its way in this billboard interview. 

fast forward to 2019 and it's yet to materialise, leaving hordes of twitter stans in a perpetual state of disappointment and anticipation. the blow was softened slightly with the release of downhill lullaby back in march, a super dark string-led track that, according to ferreria, aimed to capture the sound of "the birds in snow white, singing underwater, while slowly being suffocated by plastic"

bubblegum pop it is not, but sky's unwillingness to stick to one genre and compromise her creative vision has always been incredibly inspiring to me. 

the climate of pop music has changed so dramatically that when it eventually arrives, masochism will be received a thousand times more positively in an era where soundcloud and streaming has allowed both artists and listeners the freedom to create and consume in whatever way they want. 

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