Reviews

Self Esteem
Prioritise Pleasure

(Polydor)

8/10

Indie-pop veteran Rebecca Taylor, aka Self Esteem, embodies the role of a pop star with joy and confidence. She nails the technical elements, of course: the larger-than-life persona, the earworm choruses, the vocal excellence – it’s all there. But what makes her truly special is her ability to take us all with her, centring the listener in each glorious ‘fuck you’ to those who have wronged her, and in each vulnerable acknowledgement of pain. Taylor views her approach to pop as a Trojan Horse – a vehicle for poised and memorable feminist statements. Sure, it’s calculated, but it’s also raw and dangerous. Taylor’s shocking lyrical honesty goes beyond what most pop stars can offer. 

Prioritise Pleasure is a frank, uplifting look at feminine survival in the midst of male violence and toxic social pressure, finding communal strength in timeless group vocals and ecstatic choruses. Early single ‘I Do This All the Time’ uses undecorated spoken word to reassure us (“Getting married isn’t the biggest days of your life / All the days that you get to have are big”), while ‘How Can I Help You’ opts instead for pummelling Yeezus-era drum hits. As a young drummer, Taylor was criticised by the men around her for the way her body moved on the kit – a grimly common experience for female percussionists. Here, her drumming becomes confrontational under lines like “I’ll always be wet, always be up for it / Politely sit, but I don’t know shit, do I? / And that’s how you live with it”.

Rather than using pop polish to mask uncomfortable truths, Prioritise Pleasure hits so powerfully specifically because it uses the language of a pop record to state them frankly. It’s masterful.

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