Published on May 22nd, 2015 | by Katy Evans1
Vicci incites and inspires in the audacious/tender/sexy “I am Vicci Martinez”
Since Vicci Martinez released I am Vicci Martinez, I am unashamed to say I have listened to the album all the way through at least once a day. Often times more than once a day. The last time I listened so much and so regularly to an album was when Beyoncé released BEYONCÉ.
So this new Vicci album must be just like Beyoncé’s, right? It’s not a completely improbable comparison.
Both albums debuted new sounds, experiments, and collaborations, and both came together through an artist’s conscious choice to take charge of their creative direction with no heed to industry whims and profit expectations. For Beyonce, this was a supremely safe bet (world-wide celebrity with millions of extra dollars); and although Vicci may be a rising star with tremendous fan support, there is no safety net for her – this album is all risk. So, as it is clear that Beyonce and Vicci Martinez are fairly distinct artists, let’s move beyond comparisons and get into Vicci’s new music. (Um, if you need to keep talking about Beyonce’s music, let’s do that too on the twitter. After you finish this review.)
In 2011, Vicci debuted to the world, coming in third on The Voice’s inaugural season. It was a exciting moment for all of her fellow Tacomans; we couldn’t be prouder of Vicci’s weekly, televised performances. She knocked our socks off with her passion and talent and left us cheering.
But beyond the unconditional love many of us have for a Tacoman making good, Vicci’s style as presented to an international audience was just a little off. No matter how well-intentioned, it seemed like Vicci was dropped into a very restrictive stereotype, earnest and soulful yes, but the overproduced bluesy rock of her first album just wasn’t right. Her delivery was as strong and gorgeous as we’d come to expect but something was missing.
Not so in her sophomore album, I Am Vicci Martinez.
“I Am” is a big departure from what we all thought was going to be the Vicci sound. Gone are the dominant guitars, gone are the reliably belted crescendos, gone are the benign lyrics. Instead, we meet a very contemporary Vicci.
In “I Am,” Vicci has aligned with a very different combination of genres, debuting ten songs that are much more hip-hop tinged, mid-tempo electro-indie pop than singer-songwriter rock.
“I Am” is simultaneously fresh and adept; an album accomplished through rigorous engineering and affecting song craft and delivery, resulting in a pleasantly inescapable earworm-ability in nearly every hook. Did I say pleasant? I mean addicting.
This is the kind of Vicci you might get if you combined all we knew about her with Frank Ocean, Jessie Ware, The Weeknd, Little Dragon, some Sia, and myriad other contemporary influences. In working with Aaron Stevens, DJ Phinisey, and Paul Hirschl – the production team Enter-Exit-Stay – Vicci gets a diverse array of musical inspiration to curate, resulting in a refreshingly confident and inventive pop album.
Note by note, beat by beat, the final album sound is an almost perfect blend of elements from beloved indie band Goldfinch (Aaron and Paul), our own Vicci Martinez, and highly regarded hip-hop producer DJ Phinisey.
Vicci’s emotive and inimitable voice trips through crisp, intricate hip-hop soundscapes, masterfully delivering unexpected lyrics and melodies that at times emote pathos and pain, as well as inspiration, love, and let’s not forget lust.
I’ve spent a lot of time attempting to divine the origin of my obsession with this nearly perfect pop album, and I think the three distinct moods it evokes are a big part of its habit-forming quality. I’ve divided “I Am” into three categories: The Hot Songs (Trip My Fuse, Stay Awake, Your Move, Till Now); The Encouraging Songs (Best Dress, Boulders); and The Badass Songs (Unleashed, Bad News Breaker, Keep on Going, and Hard Earned Day).
There is rarely a time when I’m not in the mood to hear at least one of these three types of songs, which may explain why I can happily keep listening to it over and over and over.
Feeling a little sluggish? Get into Keep on Going or Hard Earned Day. Need to feel a little less lonely? Turn up Boulders. Need to get it on? Your Move on repeat should do the trick. And just like BEYONCÉ (by Beyoncé), my favorite track changes daily.
Today, there’s just something about the hook in Best Dress that makes me want to bravely hold hands with those I love on the edge of a precipice, staring defiantly into the wind.
Put your best dress on / and I will go down to hell with you / put your best dress on / don’t you know how much I love you
I don’t know why it gets me so much but it just gives me those heart swells when DJ Phinisey joins Vicci in the song’s unconventional harmony and the chorus soars. It’s perhaps everything you would ever want someone to say to you before prom or an awkward family dinner or a sky dive. You just have to hear it.
Vicci shows us in “I Am” that she is here to tenaciously take charge, and is unafraid to agitate, to love, and to fight. Get into it – by your second full listening of I am Vicci Martinez, you’ll be hooked, I promise.