You might know Foushee from the songs she’s done with Steve Lacy — including the ubiquitous “Bad Habit” — or the ones with Lil Wayne and Vince Staples, or (most likely) the TikTok hit “Deep End,” although she wasn’t credited on it at first.
But just forget about all of the above, because “softCORE” is something else. It’s the kind of kaleidoscopic, multi-genred, disruptively creative album that makes you feel like the artist was hiding something, or at least holding back.
“softCORE” is definitely more CORE than soft: There’s punk rock, hyper-pop, alt-rock, oddball Tierra Whack-style hip-pop, and there are a couple of the vaguely alt-R&B songs that she released on her debut album, last year’s “Time Machine.” The lyrics are bonkers — “I looked so good he died,” “You’re so cute but you’re dumb,” “I got frenemies/ I got mini-me’s” — and the songs have titles like “Die,” “Bored,” “Stupid B—h,” “Scream My Name” and the blistering rifffest opener, “Simmer Down,” which does anything but that (except in its soft, piano-driven middle section). There’s screaming, screaming guitars, blast beats, soaring harmonies, wildly looped and altered vocals — a lot of the songs would be classified as rock, but a really disruptive strain that recalls ’90s digital hardcore acts like Atari Teenage Riot. Most of the soft moments are abruptly interrupted with blast beats or screaming, or the obverse: “Stupid B—h” ends with a string quartet and an almost nursery-rhyme-like outro.
It sounds chaotic and it is, but what makes Foushee truly different is her songcraft: She’s a Grammy-nominated songwriter and a powerful and distinctive singer, but here those talents are mostly in the service of treading the line between beauty and noise.
Until the album’s end, at least: The closing “Let U Back in” is such a calm, pretty, yearning song that it almost seems more deranged than what came before.
Yes, it’s all over the place and some songs seem like they could be by a totally different artist, but there’s a cohesion and unity of vision that transcends the head-spinning diversity; also, the tracks all clearly are sung by the same person, even though she may have distorted, sped up or warped her voice nearly beyond recognition. And it’s over almost before you know it — all of that happens across 12 songs in 24 and a half minutes; only one passes the three-minute mark. There’s a battery of collaborators — most often Philly-spawned producer BNYX (Lil Uzi Vert, Yeat, Ty Dolla $ign) and Zach Fogarty (Jean Dawson, Denzel Curry) — and Lil Uzi guests on one song. But the beautifully twisted vision here is clearly Foushee’s.
And what a vision it is. “softCORE” is a jarring blast of melody and chaos that adds up to one of the year’s best and most exciting albums.
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