written by Lauren Rosier
Chicago-based dance/electronic duo, DRAMA, has released their debut LP, Dance Without Me. It’s an excellent follow-up to 2016’s Gallows. From the moment I began listening to DRAMA’s debut, Dance Without Me, it immediately grabbed my attention. Dance Without Me is a powerful collection of songs that touch upon love, heartbreak, loneliness, and the transformation that occurs from the journey of heartache to self-love and self-acceptance.
Though the record is largely a dance/electronic record, their songs still have a cathartic feel and the duo bares their soul in each track. Via Rosa has an exquisite, soulful voice that she delicately displays on the album, while Na’el Shehade’s production is sharp, crisp, and full.
The record opens with the track, “7:04 AM”, that has this cool, airy indie/electronic vibe. When listening through the first time, it wasn’t one of the most danceable tracks on the record, but it’s definitely one of the strongest tracks on the record. I definitely imagine hearing this playing at an indie-rock dance party at some trendy dive bar somewhere in Philly or as a great night driving song. I picture the Philly skyline with the sky painted different shades of pink, purple, red, and yellow, in the early morning hours, or late-night driving with this song playing on the car stereo. Lead vocalist, Via Rosa, sings about the nightlife, being able to call someone or being with someone when “the night is young.” She sings more about significant others: “everybody has got somebody to call/when the night is young…”
On the duo’s latest single, “Years,” Rosa sings about being there for someone no matter what… “even when you tell lies tell lies/I’ll be here for you for years to come…” On each track, producer Na’el Shehade delivers some hip-hop inspired beats layered over a backing track. What’s ironic, and what they’re especially good at, is creating happy-sad songs with danceable, electronic beats. These are songs about heartache, loneliness, and relationships, then recovering from that heartbreak.
The duo changes it up a bit and goes towards the dance club/electronic beats on “Forever And a Day.” I immediately felt like this song and “Years” would be two tracks that would likely be remixed.
The duo continues the indie-electronic vibe of “Forever And a Day” on the track, “Hold On.” The soulful, indie-electronic/dance beats envelop the listener and can’t help but get you moving. This track really reminds me a lot of The XX, but with a sound that can only be recognized as DRAMA. “Hold On” opens with solid, trip-hop beats with Rosa’s super soulful vocals.
On songs like “Gimme Gimme” and “Days and Days”, Via Rosa uses her sadness to create vibrant, danceable songs that help to boost your mood.
One of my favorite songs on the record is “People Like You.” It begins with some dark, shimmery synths, then gradually adds in the percussion. The song is built layer upon layer with each instrument. Her emotive lyrics and vocals almost help you feel what she’s feeling.
The next track, “Good For Nothing” gives off a slightly different vibe than the first few songs, but it’s welcomed as it breaks up the similarities in each song, and allows each one to shine individually. The indie/alt-disco vibe on “Good For Nothing” also reminds me slightly of a track that uses elements of ‘80’s synths. I don’t feel like it’s one of the stronger tracks on the record, but I love how the bass is super prominent in this track.
“Nine One One” is one of the duo’s singles that were chosen to preview the whole record. I think it’s definitely one of the stronger tracks on the record. It blends simple beats and melodic background track and sticks to the theme of heartache as Rosa sings, “You gave all you got/to a love/you thought would last…”
The final track and the album’s title track delivers some serious hip-hop beats. Via Rosa’s vocals sound incredible paired up with the production by Shehade.
From the vocals of Via Rosa to the production, instrumentation, and intimacy that it creates, DRAMA’s Dance Without Me is definitely one you want to check out and they’re definitely an artist you don’t want to miss.