On the Internet, music fanatics brand their favorite artists with endless labels. One of the most popular subsets used in the modern industry is the term “sad girl” — an acute class of singer-songwriters who share similar sonic sensibilities, such as melancholic vocals and hushed acoustics. While this classification receives criticism for the way in which it constrains artists, it also identifies what is so attractive about these artists — their shared ability to craft detailed but distinct anecdotes.
Samia, an indie artist who first rose to fame with her debut album, The Baby, once fell in line with the “sad girl” class. Her breakout ballad “Big Wheel” soars with acoustic riffs and sentimental vocals, two characteristics definitive of the whole album. On her latest LP Honey, however, she wanders from this tried and true method, trading in her sympathetic perspectives for futile and narrow narratives.
With this project, Samia fails to spark the same authenticity as her first record, instead relying on peculiar songwriting imbued with trivial stories and scattered melodies. It is clear Samia aims for something remarkable here — and on a few tracks she reaches this goal — but for the most part, she fumbles at crafting anything poignant. Honey loses itself in awkward metaphors and uninspired production, leaving behind an album largely devoid of substance.
“Kill Her Freak Out,” the opening tune, poses an immense benchmark for the other ten tracks to follow. Existential dread looms from the onset of the first few chords, as understated electronics construct an overcast but cinematic environment. Samia surfaces from the shadows as an infuriated admirer who holds murderous levels of hatred for another woman she sees as a rival to her crush. Dramatic but still relatable, this ballad showcases Samia as disaffected and incensed, an obscure persona through which she functions best as a writer.
Samia meets this diaristic standard with the second album standout, an acoustic and confessional ballad called “Pink Balloon.” She marks the first chorus with a blunt extract about a friend’s mother who threatens suicide, as well as someone’s sister who cooks dinner for herself in LA. The rest of the verses follow the same trend, recounting seemingly disparate but commonly heartbreaking experiences. In the hands of another artist, this writing could have felt like a to-do list, a compilation of irrelevant details desperate to make listeners cry. But Samia links them together with the honesty and intimacy of her chorus: “How are you supposed to wanna love me anymore?”
After this third track, though, the record falls into a lull of insincere writing and trite production. “Mad at Me” initiates this descent into mediocrity with uninspired bedroom pop production reminiscent of Clairo’s run of indie hits in 2017. The misplaced feature from Papa Mbye only exacerbates these flaws. His verse drowns under the weight of irrelevant references — including a call out to John Doe — and his vocals fail to spark chemistry with Samia.
Along the same trend of clumsy writing, the finger-plucked folk tune “To Me It Was” remains one of the lowest points on the album. In contrast to the masterful confessions on “Pink Balloon,” Samia riddles off what feels like an elementary school poem in the second verse of the song. Playful but ultimately arbitrary pictures of a “couple bald men fighting over a brush” and the struggle of “finding a needle in a stack of needles” abound the track, leaving it with a rather shallow sense of emotion.
Suggested in “Pink Balloon” and “Kill Her Freak Out,” Samia’s latest record holds great potential. She assembles beautiful chord progressions and constructs enigmatic stories at times, but maybe her songwriting is best when she removes herself from the narrative. Detached from her perspective and dissimilar to anything else in her discography, the two standout tunes from the album hint at an exciting turning point in the artist’s career. It’s just a shame that she didn’t choose to explore this avenue more with Honey because perhaps if she did, the LP would have been much more memorable.