Nobody is perfect. A l l i e isn’t afraid to admit that on her song, “Bad Habits, a standout from her debut album Nightshade which was released July 21. We’re all guilty of our own faults, but this Canadian singer/songwriter delves deeper and explores the reasons why we might be prone to this poor behavior. The album is only 10 tracks long but A l l i e establishes a coherent message across her songs: that sometimes our troubles aren’t our own and we must work to find the root of these problems to better ourselves and those around us.
A l l i e is a Toronto native, but her Jamaican-Canadian father raised her on a healthy supply of reggae, jazz and soul, the latter of which is particularly showing in her output. Although the Toronto r&b scene is very active right now with artists like Drake, The Weeknd and 6LACK leading the charge, she is fully capable of separating herself from her male contemporaries. Some of the synth parts bring to mind the g-funk style of West Coast hip-hop from the early ’90s but on the whole, her music is less trap-rap inspired than other comparable artists like Kehlani or SZA (though she does rap on the hypnotic cut “Move Like A Mystic”). Whether or not all of her influence comes from Canada, the country is proud to have her as a fixture in the music scene and the government awarded her with an arts grant, allowing to expand her sound even further. The shimmering synths and prominent bass pair well with her velvety vocals, which seem to envelop the listener like a blanket on a cold night. She speaks as though she were a childhood best friend or mentor, instructing you on how to better yourself without coming across as overbearing.
The album opens with “Let Her,” which finds A l l i e repeating the lines, “Give her your love, Know she deserves it, She is enough.” This serves as the perfect introduction for the album as A l l i e sings about a woman who is repeatedly told by men around her that she isn’t enough for them, developing the bad habit of not respecting herself. When she addresses that this isn’t her fault, she’s able to see her self-worth and is able to “dig up her pleasure like buried treasure.” She continues this theme on “The Reminder,” where she unapologetically and repeatedly states how she “doesn’t need your love.” As much as this album is a reminder of the importance of self-love, she is not entirely opposed to the idea of loving another person, as long as they can love you for who you are. This rings true on “All the Love” and “I Can’t Wait,” which both detail the joys of having someone there for you and how empowering love can be when you’ve found the right person. The album ties together well with the final track “Wildcat,” a single released earlier this year. It finds A l l i e laying it all out for her past lovers, ensuring they take full responsibility for the tolls that her mental health had taken by being with them.
Nightshade can be a beautiful flower, but can also be incredibly toxic and thus, the perfect analogy to the album’s content. Despite the increasing amount of coverage that mental health care has received lately, it’s still rare for an artist to be so open with feelings. A l l i e makes it clear that not all love is treated equally, but once on the path towards self-actualization, the need to be validated by another dwindles.
You can stream the album here and it’s also available to buy from her website.