SELF ESTEEM – “PRIORITISE PLEASURE” – ALBUM REVIEW by EJ Scanlan
An ambitious pop record that has a lot to say, but sometimes misses the mark.
Self Esteem, a pop star in the making. After the release of her debut album, “Compliments Please” in 2019, she has had critical acclaim through multiple of her releases, been spoken about by multiple media outlets such as The Guardian and been a festival favourite over the last year.
She’s now back with her sophomore album, “Prioritise Pleasure”, and I’ll be very honest, I’ve not heard too much about this artist. I know a lot of people have spoken about her work, but I haven’t heard any of her music before and don’t know too much about her, so this review is going to be a fresh take on the artist, something that I haven’t done before, so let’s delve deep into her 13 track release.
Starting with “I’m Fine”, which is produced very well, and whereas I appreciate the track’s empowering message, I can’t help but feel like it’s unoriginal in how it goes about it. It sounds like the same old track I’ve heard a hundred times before, however, I did enjoy the song’s final 50 seconds, the speech speaking about how a group of women protect themselves from men walking down the street is exactly what is needed, follow that up with a gorgeous classical orchestra, it has the essence of a great track, but failed to fully deliver. Moving onto “Fucking Wizardry”, I can see the appeal of the track, as the chorus has lots of great sections, and the full song’s pop sound is brilliant, however, to me, something was missing from the track, and I can’t put my finger on what it is. I know that to me, the track feels incredibly underwhelming, and that might have been the result of the missing piece, but I know that after hearing that, there’s a lot more left to be desired.
The next track is “Hobbies 2”, a direct sequel to “(Hobbies)” from “Compliments Please”. I knew I couldn’t judge the track on its own without listening to the original version. Already while listening to said version, it’s the best song I’ve heard her do so far, and “Hobbies 2” is already Self Esteem’s vocally strongest so far, where before she’s just faded into the background. The song itself is sensational. Its production stands out, as do its lyrics and the overall aesthetic of the track, I’m very very impressed. I’m hoping the album is more like this rather than the previous tracks we heard beforehand. Now is the album’s title track, which continues the record’s empowering sound and theming via its remarkable productions, vocals and lyrics. This is what “I’m Fine” and “Fucking Wizardry” was missing, and I love the ambitious scale of the track, so yeah, I’m impressed.
“I Do This All The Time” is next up, “Prioritise Pleasure”’s lead single, and I love the honesty provided in this track. I love how the anxieties and complications of being a person in the world are explored expertly. This is one of the best lyrical songs of the year so far, and it’s fantastic. Its production is sensational, I’m lost for words with how amazing this track is. Wow. “Moody” continues the album’s alternative pop sound and expert production, and despite everything being there, I personally dislike the song, not because it’s bad, but because it isn’t my sort of sound, but having said that, the track will appeal to multiple pop fans from all across the world, which is a great thing. “Still Reigning” gives off a real late 00’s-early 10’s pop sound to it which I absolutely adore. Its verses give me a Jessie Ware/Anna Calvi vibe, but the chorus has this sound that is incredibly nostalgic but not so it feels old, but so it still feels fresh and vibrant. I love everything about that track.
Track 8’s “How Can I Help You” seems to have taken Wolf Alice’s “Yuk Foo”, Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead” as well as other feminist pop songs, which Self Esteem seems to have made her own thing. Her vocals are sensational but the track’s production is some of the strongest of the year. The repetition of the drums gives the song a suspenseful edge which I love, and the overall result is a fantastic pop song. “It’s Been A While” has similar issues to other tracks on the record, where the production is a highlight and the lyrics explore some issues which need going into, but something about the finished product is missing, but I can’t put my finger on it. The same issues are ever-present with “The 365”, only this feels doesn’t even stand out to me. The track just kind of exists, it doesn’t show off anything else, the vocals and production aren’t as strong as they usually are and it just doesn’t work, unfortunately.
“John Elton” is the closest we get to a full-scale ballad on the album, and it’s absolutely beautiful. The intimacy of the track is its standout, though when the track goes big on production, it still works, though I wish it would have been more acoustic, but that’s just a personal preference rather than a judgement. I love the track, it’s beyond gorgeous. “You Forever” starts very experimentally with weird sounds before the 80’s style guitar comes in, and we have a great track that sounds like HAIM meeting a top electronica producer. I’ve never heard a track like this before, and I applaud the experimentation, especially as this works and is an absolute jam. We then head into our final track, “Just Kids”, a short but sweet pop track, which is fantastic all the way through. Its simple and intimate production is a standout but at the same time, it doesn’t get in the way of Self Esteem’s fantastic vocals and lyrics.
So overall, “Prioritise Pleasure” is a pop record with big ambitions. Whereas there are times the record doesn’t reach its full potential, all the way through, there’s some stunning production, lyrics of cut-throat honesty and some fantastic production. Although there are times where tracks feel like they’re missing a certain zest, when the album does deliver, it really does deliver.
Ranking: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (and a half)
“I Do This All The Time”
Other bangers –