Album Review: Snoh Aalegra’s next project promises to deliver

by Madison Wilson | 6/21/19 2:00am

On June 14, Iranian-Swedish singer-songwriter Snoh Aalegra released a new song, “Find Someone Like You,” in anticipation of her sophomore album coming in August, “-Ugh, those feels again.” 

“Find Someone Like You” delivers what Aalegra always promises: real emotions with R&B classic backing and Aalegra’s velvety vocals. Often compared to Amy Winehouse, Aalegra is more influenced by R&B, but listeners may find that the comparison rings truest for Aalegra’s vocals, especially in this latest song. 

On “Find Someone Like You,” plucky strings foil Aalegra’s soft and wavery vocals, creating the contrast that carries the song. Without this detail, the song would fall flat and feel redundant. The song’s short choir section, reminiscent of Chance the Rapper’s signature gospel style, feels corny in comparison to Aalegra’s usual emotive and melodic style. Ending on this section was disappointing — I wish Aalegra wparted from the overused choir trope and ended the single on something more original. 

Aalegra, born in Sweden in 1987 to Persian parents, began releasing music in 2009. Rising to fame due to her sweet yet gritty vocals, Aalegra’s genre-crossing style is defined by her dynamism defines. Early in her career, Aalegra appeared on music by both RZA and Vince Staples, showing her vocal ability to move between genres. Her debut album, “FEELS,” also featuring a collaboration with Staples, proved this point once more. In revisiting her first studio album, listeners will be reminded of what Aalegra does best, as we wait for her second album to drop in a few months. 

“FEELS” starts off with the opening track “All I Have,” setting the stage for the reflective, rhythm-driven work to come. It is simple and piano-heavy, but the vocals sound as if Aalegra is singing through water. Her voice is distant, establishing that the listener will need to close this distance for themselves.  

The following track “Sometimes,” featuring Logic, continues to set up the album, bringing in the central thesis of the record. Aalegra sings her thesis, “and sometimes life, it just happens to me.” This is the first stage in the journey of the album. Aalegra is floating along, things are happening, but she seems to have little agency in her own life. Logic commands throughout his feature as the only assertive voice on the track. The song ends in a prolonged fade out, again sounding as though Aalegra is singing through water.  

“Worse” is one of the best tracks on the record and shows Aalegra at her most sultry — her silky vocals and a sparse rhythm section create a sense of space within the work. The same distance that characterizes the entire work reappears here — Aalegra cannot seem to fully connect. While initially this can make the listener feel isolated, the distance is bridged by the intimacy between the music and the listener deepens throughout the album. For instance, “You Got Me” brings a more upbeat, yet emotive tone to the record. On “Out of Your Way,” Aalegra sings a balladic plea and offering where she asks for something, anything, from her lover.  

Moving into the album’s emotional core, on “Nothing Burns Like The Cold,” Aalegra puts her emotions and pain on full display. At the beginning of the album, Aalegra hold us at a distance. On this track, however, she brings listeners into her world. The track is centered around Staples’ feature, where he discusses the mercurial nature of love. He raps, “In and out of love/Is it because you’re cold and heartless?/Or is it our withdrawals?” Staples’ sharp rhythmic interlude ties the track together, emphasizing that one will never fully know what is going on in the minds of those we love.  

“Nothing Burns like the Cold” launches the album into “FEELS,” the climax to the story Aalegra has woven throughout the record. “FEELS,” the titular track, returns to the central theme of the album: that emotion is a difficult thing to capture. The track is upbeat and whimsical, reminiscent of Aalegra’s earlier, more pop-y work. Still, an undercurrent of dark, unexplainable emotion still runs through, with lyrics like “I never knew, no, no/All of these feels.” Even as the album concludes, Aalegra still cannot explain her emotions. Perhaps this accounts for the earlier feeling of distance: How can we be close to the music’s message if Aalegra herself cannot understand it?  

With “FEELS,” Aalegra demonstrated her ability to dive deep into her own emotions while maintaining honesty. The album as a whole operates like the stages of grief — though out of order — as Aalegra motions through joy and grief, bargaining and acceptance. Each track details the ways a relationship can change while Aalegra serves as our tour guide and narrator. Personally, I find it peaceful listening to Aalegra’s own experiences, which are so easy to relate to, accompanied by simple, rhythmic instrumentals and accompaniment. 

 On her upcoming album, “-Ugh, those feels again,” I hope Aalegra will bring this same depth but avoid repetition. What new perspective can she provide? If “Find Someone Like You” is any indication, this new album may rely on more gospel and soul influences, and perhaps fuller instrumentals. Nonetheless, with her vocals serving as the backbone, “-Ugh, those feels again,” should be a soothing end-of-summer listen — one that promises to go deeper than she’s gone before.