Listening to Pop Music as an Alternative Music Fan: Emma Kelly – Under Pressure

Hey Folks!

Thought I would take a break from the usual “wall of distortion” bands that I usually review to talk about something rather controversial to the alternative music scene. Pop music. Adored by the masses and hated by the alternatives. I consider myself to be an alternative music fan, anything weird and I’m usually down! But lately, I’ve been listening to more and more pop music. I’ve always believed that even in alternative music, bands need to retain an element of pop. But when I was sent Emma Kelly’s new single “Under Pressure” I found myself listening to a highly produced, catchy pop track. And you know what? I enjoyed it!

Truth be told I don’t know enough about pop music to know which artists Emma Kelly is drawing from here. But I really enjoyed the track, it uses some really interesting instrumentation, such as the lo-fi strings in the introduction, contrasting the high production value of the rest of the song. I also really enjoyed the pre-chorus, it reminded me quite a bit of Dodie, another highly underrated pop artist I like. Under Pressure has the layers of synthesisers you’d hear on many tracks such as this which add some great atmosphere. The performances are all quality, Emma’s voice has a lot of character to it, however I felt that perhaps if the voice had been less hyper-produced during certain sections it may have had a bit more impact. My favourite part of the track has to be the bridge. This is where a lot of the layers pull back to really allow Emma’s voice to shine and the chords have a lot of weight to them. This is where the emotion really hits me and I applaud Emma for some simple but impactful lyrics. Lines such “my biggest saboteur is my everyday reflection” really evokes the self doubt and the pressure this song is written about.

I was a bit disappointed by the chorus, not only does it take far too long to get there, but it’s not overly singable. It’s over a minute and a half before the main full chorus kicks in, with a half chorus during the introduction. I really like the verse, I love the bridge, but pop music is centred around those chorus hooks. I definitely think this is a brave decision and I love the progressive nature of the choice, but if Emma Kelly wants to find a mass audience then she needs to focus on writing tunes that won’t get out of people’s heads.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this track. The production and performances are both superb and that bridge alone is to die for! That section alone makes this song worthy of your playlists. In fact, I’m going to include a new category in reviews going forward “worthy of your playlists”. I have never and will never give a number to rate something as complex as a record, but see this as a badge of approval from me. Stick that in your resume Emma!

Listening to pop music, as someone who just a few years ago wouldn’t be caught dead listening to tracks such as this, is not a bad thing. Any music that gets you to dance and singalong is to be applauded as its own unique art and should be appreciated along with all forms of music. So well done Emma, I look forward to hearing more from you!

Peace, Love and Cowbells,

Oscar