Elli Ingram is the latest female UK star to hit the scene. Having caught the attention of many a music loving YouTuber with her reworked version of Kendrick Lamar’s “Poetic Justice”, the Brighton singer/songwriter has continued to impress audiences with her particular brand of mellow Jazz infused Soul music. This has prompted critics to compare Ingram to some of the UK’s finest modern female vocalists such as Amy Winehouse, and Adele. Her debut EP, Sober, is an impressive six-track compilation of laid back songs, injected with acute youthful wisdom, and edgy personality.
There’s a real focus on emotional experience throughout this EP. Many of the songs detail the struggle to deal with conflicting emotions, and bittersweet moments. It manages to be introspective and personal, without becoming too heavy, or overly self indulgent. Featuring production from London producers, Felix Joseph, and Rudi Redz, Sober comprises a broad mix of musical elements such as Jazz, Pop, Blues, and R&B. These sounds provide an ideal backdrop for the engaging, quirky lilt of Ingram’s voice, which fluctuates between the light, breezy tone of Lily Allen, and the delicate emotive drawl of Sia. Although, musically this EP is steeped in tradition, there is something about Sober that just feels so unmistakeably like now.
The chilled vibe of the title track, “Sober” lulls you into a false sense of calm. Its misty, muted beats, coupled with the soft, rhythm of Ingram’s voice, and the elegant horn section make it sonically deceptive. Lyrically, “Sober” is about being anything but. The song looks at alcoholism, and the often mentally and physically addictive nature of a self destructive lifestyle.
“Then I lose my soul to the poison that I’m on, but I can’t let it go to waste, and I love the way it tastes”
Conceptually, Sober looks at the idea of trying to maintain a balance between indulgence, and restraint. The musical flourishes are used sparingly; they are brief and tempered with simple lyrics and laid back vocals. Even the EP’s striking artwork alludes to the theme of moderation versus excess: A straight-faced Ingram sits, sporting a flush of white-pink hair, and clutching a bottle of whiskey, while surrounded by all the trappings of a chintzy, 60s-style afternoon tea. It acts as a visual representation of the internal conflict brought about by the desire for sobriety and intoxication simultaneously.
“Fun” is a great example of this. One of the standout tracks on the EP; it’s a light-hearted tale of good times. Ingram’s syrupy voice slides over the simple piano-led melody, and soaring strings, which give this track a real sense of scale, and whimsy. In terms of mood and subject matter, “Fun” is like the flipside to “Sober”: where the latter is filled with a sense of murky anguish and guilt, about getting drunk, “Fun” details an altogether more positive experience. The two songs display opposing attitudes towards similar circumstances, but Ingram never allows herself to get entirely carried away in one direction, or another – nothing is all good, or all bad. Even with the frivolous freedom of “Fun” the good times are tempered with sobering thoughts of consequence. That is what gives this song its flighty, yet grounding feel; it’s a gorgeous tune, definitely one you’ll be pressing the skip-back button for.
“Took the walk of shame back home, with no make-up […] And I know that it’s bad for my throat […] I was so wasted, champagne and rosé, the sun high when we got home, we were so faded […] We were just having fun. We were dancing in the rain, so free, no shame. I want to feel that way again, so bring the bottles down and we can take the town again”
Elli Ingram is an artist who shows music’s ability to evolve and adapt. Perhaps not in the most flamboyant or obvious way, Sober includes subtle elements of so many different styles. There’s the 90s R&B flavour of “Mad Love”, and the Neo-Soul influence on “Elliot”. Her cover of Kendrick Lamar’s “Poetic Justice” is what brought her to the attention of so many. She takes a song that is fast becoming a modern Hip-Hop classic and, (to use a coveted TV talent show catchphrase) makes it her own. It just sounds hot, fresh, and deliberate. It’s a re-work that’s more than worthy of the copious accolades it has received.
“Poetic Justice (Retrial)”:
Sober is a strong debut. It’s a cohesive culmination of well produced tracks, which are instantly relatable. With these songs, Ingram tells the kinds of stories that a lot of people want to hear, and she manages to strike the perfect balance between personal and accessible while doing so. She has hints of Drake or The Weeknd’s introspective perspective; the catch-you-off-guard lyrical bite of Ed Sheeran; and these all set to richly textured Sade-esque vibes. What Elli Ingram has to offer is fresh out of the kitchen stuff. It’ll be exciting to hear what’s to come from this rising UK talent.
Download: Elli Ingram – Sober EP