By Geno Thackara
It’s a familiar scene. The trendy place is packed with people drinking and dancing, you can hardly see a thing amid the black light and DJ strobes, and some piece of slick pop is thumping loudly enough to make your eardrums ache. It doesn’t really matter what the soundtrack is; the point is the vibe and rhythms that keep everyone feeling the pulse until they stumble out. There’s probably an unnaturally smooth voice singing about relationships, whether starting, ending or just temporary.
Cue up Wafia’s second EP VIII and you’re immersed in that exact experience to a T – the problem being, as I mentioned, that it doesn’t really matter what the soundtrack is. The synths sound big, the bass is punchy, and it’s full of electronic beats programmed for an ear-grabbing bounce. The frequent backing voices are autotuned enough that they could have come from robots. The lyrics can mean just about anything. In the song “Bodies” she sings, “How did it become so serious / something in the air is dangerous / everybody here is watching us / we’re just bodies / we’re just bodies in the night.” And that’s really a shame here since Wafia’s personal themes are somewhat more interesting than your average top-40 fare. This song is really about her Syrian family suffering during the refugee crisis.
“83 Days” and “Only Love” sound like any generic twentysomething breakup/hookup songs you’ve heard before, although the latter is really inspired by sexual identity issues. You just wouldn’t know it merely from listening. And yes, it can often be a good thing to make themes accessible without pinning them down to one specific situation, but it’s also easy to go too far and leave the words basically meaningless.
Maybe the slick hooks of VIII will help get Wafia’s name out there a little more; hopefully, it can also draw some attention to the social issues she cares about. I, for one, just wish this recording hadn’t been mostly flattened out to pulp in the process. Considering her thoughts about acceptance and being yourself without artificially dressing up, it would be great to hear the music follow suit.
Rating: Too bland despite itself
Upcoming Tour Dates
Jan 22-The Colbalt-Vancouver, BC
Jan 22-Barboza-Seattle, WA
Jan 26-Rickshaw Stop-San Francisco, CA
Jan 27-Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery-Los Angeles, CA
Jan 29-Lincoln Hall+Schubas-Chicago, IL
Jan 30-The Drake Hotel-Toronto, ON
Feb 1-Rough Trade-NYC, NY
Feb 2-Great Scott-Allston, MA
Feb 3-Songbyrd Music House-Washington, DC
Feb 18-Elizabeth Quay-Perth, WA
Feb 24-Hobart-TAS, Australia