In the stream of new releases this summer, I kept feeling like everything I was listening to had something in common. However, I couldn’t put my finger on it, and with my head full of my own summer boy issues and personal rankings of the best vanilla soft serve (Marvel in Lido Beach sells my current No. 1), I didn’t give it much thought.
That is, until my friend Lara said to me, “Weren’t there so many female breakup albums this summer?”
And I said, “Wow, you’re right! I’m going to write an article about that.”
The summer started off with Amber Coffman’s debut solo album, “City of No Reply,” released via Columbia Records on June 2. For those that don’t know, Coffman was an early member of David Longstreth’s Dirty Projectors, until they broke up as both a couple and a band in 2012. Earlier this year, Longstreth released “Dirty Projectors,” a intricately produced, confessional, self-described “breakup album” without Coffman’s knowledge. “Dirty Projectors” was successful, and at times, uncomfortable to listen to. Regardless, boys are gross, and “City of No Reply” ironically sounds a lot like Coffman’s equally successful reply.
On this record, production is smooth, pretty, baroque pop, that blends pretty effortlessly with Coffman’s clearcut vocals. “All to Myself” opens the album, with Coffman deciding she can’t just “sit around feeling upset / Dwelling on my loneliness,” she has to “sing it out, sing it all.”
Soon, the album evolves into a greater picture of Coffman’s emotional state post-breakup, lamenting how “nobody knows how I feel,” on “Nobody Knows,” struggling with unresolved feelings keeping her “wide awake” on “No Coffee,” until finally declaring, “I’m done with you / it’s my turn, that’s for sure” on “Brand New.”
Coffman’s emotional progression comes to a soft close on “Kindness,” a track that sits on you with the pleasant weight of accepting that you’ve moved on. Coffman’s voice is gentle and proud, recognizing that although “our problems remain unsolved,” love doesn’t “want to hinder our evolution,” and wishes her ex to always “know you are loved.” Listen to this album for a breakup that requires you to find closure on your own.
Summer’s next breakup album was SZA’s anxiously awaited debut, “Ctrl.” Released June 9 through Top Dawg Entertainment, “Ctrl” is an R&B, indie-rock blend that boasts contributions from artists like Ty Dolla $ign and Kendrick Lamar. Lyrically, SZA is raw in her honesty, apologizing for not being more “attractive,” “ladylike,” and not “shaving my legs at night” on tracks like “Drew Barrymore,” which almost spills over with it’s lush instrumentation.
Loneliness, being the other woman, and discomfort with oneself as a result are all strong themes on this album. SZA at points bemoans how she gets “so lonely, I forget what I’m worth” (“Drew Barrymore”), acknowledging that her man “is my man is your man / her man, too” (“The Weekend”), and as a result, wishing she could just be a “normal girl” that “you wanna take home to mama” (“Normal Girl”).
Although SZA’s isolation is almost palpable at times, the album also has some more glittery, empowering tracks, like the lowkey, neo-soul “Go Gina” and “Doves in the Wind,” the home of the album’s Kendrick feature and lyrics like “real niggas do not deserve pussy.” Listen to this album if none of your relationships were defined, pain from breakups felt one-sided, and the discovery of your identity is an ongoing process.
June 16 saw the release of “Melodrama,” Lorde’s shimmering, champagne-soaked sophomore album. For context, “Melodrama” was borne from Lorde’s recent breakup with New Zealand photographer, James Lowe. Lowe was there to witness Lorde’s transition from hometown hero to global pop-phenom, a process that took the singer from ages 16 to 19. The formative nature of this now lost relationship is captured through the visceral, occasionally guttural vocals on this record. You can hear this on tracks like “Writer in the Dark,” when Lorde sounds like she’s singing from the knots in her stomach, telling you how she’ll “love you til my breathing stops / I’ll love you til you call the cops on me,” and on “Sober II (Melodrama),” where she basically spits in denouncing how “we kiss and kill each other.”
I hear the album as a heart beating in time to bass at a party. It’s heavy, young, and yearning. It asks, drunk with anger and alcohol, what we’ll do “when we’re sober” (“Sober”) and cries for our “loveless generation” (“Hard Feelings/Loveless”), but only after sitting in a room alone to reflect on how “they pull back / Make other plans / I understand, I’m a liability.” (“Liability”). This is an album for the breakups that made you and the jaded hookup culture that hurt you.
The last female breakup album of the summer came on July 7, with Haim’s sophomore “Something to Tell You”. I don’t like this album because a boy that broke up with me liked Haim, so I don’t feel like talking about it. I also only listened to it once and don’t feel like listening to it again. My personal, totally unbiased, objective opinion is that a lot of songs on this record kind of blend together. However, there are some shining, twangy, Fleetwood Mac–inspired tracks that stick a little deeper in your memory, like “Want You Back,” “Little of Your Love,” and “You Never Knew.” This record also has a sadness that’s a little sweeter than the rest, marked by a self-aware wanting that’s wrapped in danceable pop-rock production. Listen to this if you like Haim and want your ex back. (I don’t.)
I’m not sure what made this summer the musical backdrop to every hot, talented woman getting broken up with, but in terms of my Spotify library, I’m definitely not complaining. Sometimes breakups sound pretty good. Not always, though. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go redownload Tinder.