delacey

Delacey – Black Coffee

Once you’ve given Black Coffee a full listen, you’ll find yourself craving another cup of Delacey’s brew right away.

3.5

You may not recognize the name Delacey, but I promise that you’ve probably heard her songs a million times over – she’s already amassed 1.5 billion streams. You just didn’t know they were hers. She’s one of the co-writers of Halsey’s global hit “Without Me,” and has penned multiple tracks for artists like Demi Lovato, the Chainsmokers and Anne-Marie. But just last week, Delacey proved that she deserves to be center stage herself, with the release of her debut album Black Coffee.

The album has a cohesive sound that’s clearly inspired by Delacey’s idols Stevie Nicks and Billie Holiday, mixed with a dash of Lana del Rey and Amy Winehouse. There’s a bluesy, laid-back tone to the songs that’ll make you crave a vinyl copy of the album. The recording sounds intimate, with rich acoustic instrumentals that only serve to emphasize her own soulful voice.

Album opener “Damn” is an immersive song with mesmerizing percussion that shows off Delacey’s melodic instinct. Thematically, it’s representative of the rest of the album in its focus on anxious love. Whether it’s unrequited, or desperate, or toxic – Delacey embraces all variations and forms of love, as well as the confusing range of emotions that come with it.

Title track “Black Coffee” may be one of the very few exceptions on the album when it comes to the production. It’s slightly more electronic and upbeat, with the opening bars sounding almost like a track Kendrick Lamar could’ve dreamed up. The lyrics express a more hopeful vision on love – one where her lover tells her “the sweetest things.” In a clever twist of words, Delacey describes herself as someone who likes black coffee, then later refers to herself as still being “a little bitter” in the chorus.

“My Man” is like the dreamy alternative version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” – addressing the toxic jealousy that sometimes rears its head in relationships as well. Yet as dreamy as it sounds, it’s offset by the bluntness of the lyrics that leave no room for platitudes like Parton’s song did.

Similarly, “No One’s Ever Gonna Love U” is an explicit diss-track in which Delacey deals with the anger and grief you may feel after a relationship has ended. And yet, the production of the song makes it sound much less aggressive than lyrics like “I hope you die somewhere” would suggest.

That’s what makes the album so interesting – there are no ruffles or frills. There’s no veneer or mask behind which Delacey is hiding. There’s nothing she’s trying to be, except herself. Rather than dressing up pop songs, she’s dressing them down. She’s perhaps sometimes too honest, but it does make you believe her when she sings so matter-of-factly about things we’ve probably all thought in our depths of despair.

She’s the disarming vulnerability in lyrics like the ones in “Unlovable”, where she clings to the words of her partner telling her that she is, in fact, not unlovable at all. But she’s also the coy, seductive woman who sings about getting married in “Chapel.” The accompanying video was just released and was heavily inspired by the old-school Westerns in style (or Old Town Road, who knows). Delacey dreams about doing whatever she wants to a man – be it marrying, or killing him.

It’s that duality that’s the pinnacle of this album – filled with songs that range from bitter to sweet, to bittersweet. Whether lustful or vengeful, full of bravado or insecure – Delacey addresses all of them; without any shame whatsoever. For example, “Sad Gurl” has Delacey deliberately paint a picture of a careless attitude in a relationship, and “Cruel Intentions” sees Delacey confidently sing about liking sex and being good in bed.

The latter also features G-Eazy, who Halsey, of course, has also worked with, and there are definitely moments where you can hear the similarity between Delacey and Halsey’s voices. However, there are also clear differences – Delacey’s tone is slightly fuller. Where Halsey has a slight rasp and hoarseness to her voice, Delacey’s is richer and befits the bluesy, jazzier side of alt-pop music.

The strongest song on the album, though, is probably “Too Poor to Live in LA.” It’s also the odd one out, both sonically and lyrically. Sonically, because there’s nothing but a piano accompanying the track as it’s more-so reflective of falling out of love with a lifestyle and environment, rather than a person. The track is so viscerally honest, the narrative in the lyrics so strong that it’ll cling to you and leave bruises on your heart.

It also cleverly echoes a song that appears earlier on the album, called “The Subway Song” – another strong contender for best song. Transit places are perhaps the most interesting locations because no one ever visits them to stay – they’re just a means getting you to an end. Even when you’re surrounded by people, you probably don’t really know any of them – have no idea who they are, where they come from or where they are going, let alone what they are going through. Delacey acknowledges exactly that, when she sings “Many broken hearts are riding this train, they’ll get on and off, and they’ll never say “hello, goodbye.”

While this song is perhaps more nuanced, it’s clear that Delacey’s strong suit is unashamedly describing the thoughts and feelings we’d normally deem undesirable and would never voice out loud. But, as Delacey herself says in track “Emily,” “When you’re pointing out all your flaws, I’ll be givin’ you my applause.” It’s the contradiction between that unpretentious grittiness and the bluesy, soft production that makes the songs unique.

However, while that combination works well for Delacey – it shouldn’t be the only thing she relies on. The album could benefit from a bit more variation in terms of tempo, while still adhering to the overall feel of the record. For example, “Cruel Intentions” featuring G-Eazy is a good and interesting track that is slightly more up-tempo, but its sound also feels somewhat out of place.

On the other end of the spectrum is her collaboration with Valley Boy, which appears about halfway through the album. It’s too slow of a song, which forms too stark a contrast with the more country-leaning and ironic songs that come right before and after: “Chapel” and “Sad Gurl.”

Despite these outliers, Delacey’s debut album Black Coffee is a good first collection of songs with a cohesive identity. It’s bluntness wrapped in pastel sounds, it’s the sweet smell of roasted coffee and its deliciously bitter taste. And while it’s flawed, it’s still stunning in its dark and all-encompassing take on matters of the heart. There’s still room to grow, but once you’ve given Black Coffee a full listen, you’ll find yourself craving another cup of Delacey’s brew right away.

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