Released: June 30, 2017
Recording Company: G.O.O.D./Def Jam Records
Length: 40 min
Two years after the release of her debut single “Experience," Yeezus-signed Kacy Hill releases an atmospheric “trip hop” album that sits comfortably left-of-center on the pop spectrum. Her debut album, “Like A Woman,” explores the same quiet electronic/pop music, but with more finesse and composure than in her 2015 EP “Bloo."
The opening and eponymous track “Like a Woman,” let’s you know exactly the type of record you’ll be listening to: soulful and modern, with influences from the Eastern hemisphere and hip hop. The strong feminist lyrics indicate an exploration of femininity and sexuality that Hill wrestles with throughout her entire album. Even though it seems romantic, “Like a Woman” is a deceptive track that immediately clues us into the complicated relationship Hill is trapped in, constantly questioning her stance with her partner.
Hill’s haunting falsetto and sparse production from executive producer Kanye West soar on tracks like "Hard to Love." Hill’s plea to her lover for trust and genuine connection evokes serious emotion, especially once she eschews her usual slow melody for an energetic chorus.
Undoubtedly the best single from the album, “Hard to Love” is rivaled by Hill’s most well-known track, “Arm’s Length," which receives a new production on the album. Although the break-up anthem still showcases Hill’s vocals and poignant undertones, the faster melody takes away the silences that allowed the listeners to fully understand Hill’s dilemma, rendering the song entertaining, but soulless.
“Static” is another standout, finding Hill falling into the same motif we hear throughout the album, an imprisoning love that finds her unsatisfied. What makes the idea stay fresh and not overused is the precise musicality Hill and West use to produce her brooding ballads. Carefully chosen harmonies and frequent piano employed to convey Hill’s emotional state without crowding the tracks with too much sound.
Instead of a 40-minute impersonation of a soft-spoken Alanis Morissette, Hill delivers an album weaving together a woman’s struggle to define herself and her relationship. The conflict reaches its apex in “Lion," a sleepy ballad that wakes up midway through. Unlike “Arm’s Length," the production of “Lion” wasn’t changed much from its previous release last year. Not only does the track convey Hill’s thematic thread perfectly, but it’s an excellent showcases for her ethereal tone.
The brooding album may leave you with an existential headache, especially with nondescript songs such as “Say You’re Wrong” and “First Time," but the majority of the album is a well crafted catharsis. Hill’s yearning vocals and the somber music help to purge the gloom of a woman lost.
Listened to in fragments, the desperation and eventual strength don’t carry the same weight as the whole album, but a few individual tracks stand on their own. However, Hill’s high-pitch voice and the moody vibes give me the impression these are not songs to be put on repeat for fear of rapid fatigue.
The album closes with “Am I," where Hill abandons her notions of romance and fully confronts those who seek to victimize Hill, and all women, for the original sin. Her doleful tone becomes resentful as she questions, “Am I a crime?”
Her case that women are more than a womb or symbol of temptation leaves listeners with a thought more powerful than elegies of lost love and insecurities: She shouldn’t have to bear her pain and struggles alone, and neither should anyone else.