FLETCHER is back with her brand new synth pop EP THE S(EX) TAPES, and it feels like she’s never been away. This marks the ‘Undrunk’ singer’s second EP release since signing with Capitol Records following the widely celebrated you ruined new york city for me in 2019.
The 26-year-old New Jersey star was supposed to be opening for Niall Horan earlier this year on his Nice to Meet Ya Tour until the pandemic broke open any possibility of packed arenas and screaming fans. But far from sinking back and lamenting plans postponed, Fletcher set to work creating her most emotive EP yet.
Produced by Malay, who also produced Frank Ocean’s critically acclaimed Channel Orange, THE S(EX) TAPES chronicle the aftermath of Fletcher’s four-year relationship with YouTuber and photographer, Shannon Beveridge. The pair remain in contact and quarantined together during the pandemic to create the music videos which accompany the tracks. Shannon revealed on TikTok: “You think you can hurt my feelings? I shot, directed, and co-starred in my ex-girlfriend’s music video for a song she wrote about me”.
Just like any other breakup then.
Although the synth pop numbers can broadly be described as upbeat, they are sprinkled with contrasting slower moments of sincerity which lend themselves to the overall impression of intimacy. FLETCHER explains the provocative EP title was chosen to communicate her degree of openness in her latest project as a sex tape captures a person at their most vulnerable. It is also a nod to the fact it is her ex-girlfriend behind the camera in the accompanying music videos.
Just as there are seven stages of grief, apparently there are also seven stages of a breakup, each of which FLETCHER has aptly given its own song. Saturated in authenticity, this first-person narrative of heartbreak and reconciliation deserves to be listened to in one sitting to fully appreciate the range of feelings she expresses.
The snappy opening song, ‘Silence’, is the shortest running at just 2:36 which demands replay. It details the realisation that she has become dependent in the relationship and needs space to process emotions and focus on her own growth. This tune is underpinned by a striking funk fueled bassline and clean production which establish the tone for the rest of the EP.
In the second track, ‘If I Hated You’, FLETCHER acknowledges that it would be easier to take space if there had been something to be angry about instead of still having residual feelings. It follows on stylistically from ‘Silence’ albeit sporting a slower tempo which benefits FLETCHER’s impressive vocal range more than the former.
Truly a product of the pandemic, track three, ‘Bitter’ was produced over Facetime with Kito during quarantine. Two sides of the same coin, ‘Bitter’ and ‘The One’ offer conflicting perspectives about the notion of moving on. The former explores feelings of jealousy at the idea her ex may be moving on with someone else whilst the latter details the experience of sexually moving on herself. ‘The One’ marks an infectious tempo shift which continues into track five making them the stand out dance tunes.
The defining feature of track five, ‘Shh…Don’t Say It’, is the thick Jersey house beat threaded through it which FLETCHER says makes it her favourite on the album because it reminds her of home. In a livestream, FLETCHER explained “[Shh…Don’t Say It is] about somebody saying they liked me and I was like please, I don’t have the emotional capacity to handle that. It’s too much baggage. I’m in love with my ex.”
Perhaps the most introspective and soulful addition to the EP is ‘Feel’. The stripped back nature prioritises FLETCHER’s vocal performance perfectly expressing the deep ache which arises once the distractions stop working and reality sets in.
Oh how weeks of steely resolve can melt away with one text: I miss you. By far the most intimate and intrinsically linked to the EP title, the final song ‘Sex (With My Ex)’ is about the inevitable relapse which plunges everything back into uncertainty. Beautifully executed vocals are layered over a delicate composition which elicit pangs of nostalgia. Her final lines “So we kiss goodnight, and I catch my flight / Goodbye forever, until next time” are immediately followed by a harsh silence thus cyclically bringing us back to the start of the album.
However, this final track is to be most acutely appreciated with the accompanying video. The dream-like visuals to accompany this track are made up of short black and white videos and photos which blend together to produce the overwhelming impression of closeness and affection rather than a linear story line.
THE S(EX) TAPES visuals echo the home-made vintage style of FLETCHER’s ‘Wasted Youth’ video released in 2017, in which Shannon stars alongside her. Watching the ‘Wasted Youth’ video, which was filmed a year into their on again off again relationship, makes for an emotionally charged precursor to her latest release.
Overall, THE S(EX) TAPES seems to be one of the few genuinely excellent things to come from this pandemic. Each addition is thoughtful and beautifully crafted representing some of FLETCHER’s best work. Here’s hoping there won’t be another international humanitarian disaster before her next one.
Words by Tara Fair
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