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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

The Gray Area: A review of “I’m All Ears”


What began as a pair of fourteen-year olds making music in their bedrooms in Norwich, England has exploded into a worldwide electro-pop sensation. After five years of working together as Let’s Eat Grandma, Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth released their most tangible and impressive album entitled I’m All Ears in the summer of 2018. The album is the perfect combination of bassline-driven dance tracks and reflective, elegant music that reminds us of the universal experience in adolescence and the modern digital age.

I’m All Ears takes its time to warm up. The album’s brief and wordless intro, “Whitewater,” makes the listener uneasy. The song begins with a bouncy, clean bass that opens quickly with a sci-fi synth that grants the track its mysterious feeling. Quickly then, the intensity of the song builds as a wildly distorted bass slots between an eerie bowstring and synth combination. The song’s Interstellar-esque drama is necessary to give context to the main body of the album. This track is a call to sit up, buckle in, and pay attention. You might have to unbuckle to dance, though.

Despite the ungraceful transition from the introduction to the album’s focal track “Hot Pink,” the song captures the audience with its ethereal synth that backs Walton’s first verse. The song’s message and meaning are as thoughtful as its complex composition; Walton and Hollingworth sing about the possession of the color pink and its use as a symbol for the relationship between masculinity and femininity. The chorus, which sees the two women take turns asking, “is it mine, is it?” shows that the boundaries of what is considered traditionally gendered must be reconsidered. The song’s reinforced theme of self-expression and freedom is what determines its prominent place in the album as a lead-off hit. Let’s Eat Grandma is giving the audience permission and guidance to open themselves up to critical self-exploration and definition. This song sets the tone for the corpus that follows. All this compressed meaning is carried through by an absolute dance bop, no less.

A few tracks down the list, “Falling Into Me” exemplifies everything that Hollingworth and Walton have grown into as young musicians. They are creators of electro-pop that gives you goosebumps and lyrics that paint visuals expressing relatable issues in everyday life. The first verse imparts the feeling one gets on those late-night walks through an empty city, moving aimlessly as one considers the meaning of texts from a boyfriend or girlfriend. True to form, the band gives the listener a chance to catch up and experience this feeling as they hit the chorus with the empowering “We got this / You, me, this” and a wild and unpredictable synth. It is as if the band is saying “pause, and dance on it for minute.” “Let’s Eat Grandma,” then, is making it easy on us. They present the listener with a scenario, so uncomfortable or painful, and then give us the reassurance through music that we are not alone in our experience.

But they wouldn’t be Let’s Eat Grandma if they let it get too serious without some much deserved lightheartedness. After the ballad of consumerism and false aesthetic motivation in “Snakes & Ladders,” Walton and Hollingworth remind us they’re still normal teens with their interlude “Missed Call (1).” They create what sounds strikingly like an iPhone ringtone. Letting a phone call ring out, even though your browsing on your phone, is one of the most relatable tendencies of our generation. Picking up the phone requires one to speak directly with the caller — and that’s just not fashionable now. On the other hand, one cannot just end the call halfway through the dial, because then the caller would infer we looked at the call, acknowledged and then rejected it. The solution? Let the called go “missed” and pretend we didn’t see it. This cheeky 37-second-long interlude just demonstrates the extent to which Let’s Eat Grandma is willing to call us (and themselves) out on our stupid and transparent young adult tendencies.

Although their electro-pop and hard-hitting base/synth combinations make them popular on the festival circuit, the duo shows no aversion to dressing down the production for important messages in their music. The penultimate track, “Ava,” features Jenny singing on her own with a slow piano melody and the sound of raindrops falling on a window. That’s right — throughout the entire album the pair randomly alternated the singer with almost nobody noticing. But, ironically, “Ava” is wholly unique because it is the only song that contains direct dialogue between two characters: Ava and her supportive friend. The song is a perfect vignette of someone that stands by her friend through ravaging and unfair mental illness. Let’s Eat Grandma understands and conveys the realities of mental health. Friends can stand by in support, willing to stick out the process to its resolution, but in truth there is no roadmap, no set right and wrong moves, just friendship and time.

All that remains to be said is that we are lucky to have Let’s Eat Grandma in our generation. In the five years, they have worked hard to gnaw at the truths that many of us experience in relationships, friendships and day-to-day life.

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