Empress Of Pivots From 'Me' To 'Us' On her new record, Lorely Rodriguez explores different matters of the heart — telling her story, and a little of ours in the process.
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Empress Of Pivots From 'Me' To 'Us'

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Empress Of Pivots From 'Me' To 'Us'

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Music Reviews

Empress Of Pivots From 'Me' To 'Us'

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

When Lorely Rodriguez first shared her music with the world, she did it anonymously. The East LA native uploaded snippets of experimental pop to YouTube under the name Empress Of. Those demos turned into a record deal and a debut album in 2015 titled "Me." On her new record, it's all about "Us."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE FOR ME")

EMPRESS OF: (Vocalizing).

KELLY: For her sophomore effort, Rodriguez says she wanted to create a sense of community and pay homage to her Honduran roots. Reviewer Miguel Perez says the result is a straightforward take that says more with less.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE FOR ME")

EMPRESS OF: (Singing) Every time I think about you, it's a summer haze, tripping over the shadows of the mess we made. Now we're a little older. You aren't the same. You aren't the same. Oh, you say that you love me. I want to know...

MIGUEL PEREZ, BYLINE: Empress Of says her last album was so personal, so chaotic that it made performing it emotionally exhausting. This time around, she wanted the music to be an equal exchange between her and us, the listeners. Songs like "Love For Me" offer emotional drama. It's just not all about her.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TRUST ME BABY")

EMPRESS OF: (Singing in Spanish, singing) Trust me, baby. (Singing in Spanish, singing) Trust me, baby. We could do each other more love than harm if you just - if you just trust me, baby.

PEREZ: On "Trust Me Baby," Rodriguez is demanding respect and faith from a partner. It's a familiar scene that's framed by lush and glittering electropop fused with R&B. The music oozes with muted spacey synths guiding her falsetto. But what makes the song special isn't what Rodriguez is saying but how she's chosen to say it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TRUST ME BABY")

EMPRESS OF: (Singing in Spanish, singing) Oh, why am I always the one to cry - one to cry. (Singing in Spanish).

PEREZ: The song's bilingual lyrics are in service to one of her biggest influences, her mom. Rodriguez says she wanted her to be able to understand the music. As a first-generation Honduran-American, Rodriguez straddles two worlds. And she nods to that experience in the way she sways between languages. She doesn't present the Spanish verses as some big moment in the song. It's just part of who she is, and the power is in the subtly.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN I'M WITH HIM")

EMPRESS OF: (Singing in Spanish, singing) I feel possessed. I can't help but repress all of the signs telling me that I'm not fine.

PEREZ: To call these simple love songs would be a disservice to the complicated experiences underneath the surface - self-doubt, community, trust, identity. In delicate but skillful ways, Rodriguez explores different matters of the heart, telling her story and a little of ours in the process.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN I'M WITH HIM")

EMPRESS OF: (Singing) You found me lost. Love me like a desert rain.

KELLY: The latest from Empress Of is called "Us." Our reviewer Miguel Perez is a producer for KERA in Dallas.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN I'M WITH HIM")

EMPRESS OF: (Singing) I speak but can't express. I lay in bed replaying life we once lived.

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