“Fruit gets ripe and it’s love, bite and angels sing up above”.
What is it about songs that hit different? Those tracks where you can physically feel receptors in your brain jumping for joy. The ones where you immediately ask yourself – Who on earth is this? When I first heard Hope Tala’s ‘Lovestained’, these very thoughts raced through my mind. Latin guitar, silk-like vocals and steel drum of all instruments. I was immediately intrigued.
Here are a few things to know about Ms Tala. She’s 21 years old. She hails from London. She graduated with First Class Honours in English Literature. She loves to read. And she has a knack for making delicious neo-soul music.
‘Lovestained’ features on Hope’s 2019 EP ‘Sensitive Soul’ (be sure to listen to it in its entirety). We’re here, however, to take a closer look at her latest batch of records – Girl Eats Sun. Take the title literally, as its meaning is all there. After dining on the Sun, Hope is full of energy, vitalised with a commitment to herself and her musical craft. She doesn’t disappoint.
Out of the gates comes ‘Mulholland’, a record of great warmth. Bossanova guitar chords, lazy hip-hop drums and Hope’s stunning vocal stroll along a sidewalk bathed in sunshine. As Tala describes, the record got its name thanks to the famous LA strip. “I called it Mulholland because I was thinking of LA a lot when I wrote it. I’d picture myself in the back of a car cruising down Mulholland Drive”. Thanks to her grip on language, Hope’s lyricism is really clever. At one point, she laments about her distaste for dirty antics at parties. “It’s lame I know, but I don’t really like going to parties. Full of people drinking, fighting, and sniffing their car keys”. Hope’s delivery is measured, casual even, almost as though she’s telling you a story and you’re hanging off her every word.
Picking up the pace, ‘Cherries’ comes at you in a hurry. Inspired by a poem she wrote long ago, Hope again plays with words, this time focusing heavily on the human body. Unlike many other artists who talk explicitly about sex, Hope takes the subtle route, painting vivid imagery through her phrasing. “Makes heads go light and hands lose their grip. Pulling teeth behind a bottom lip. To look for cherry stones and rotting apple pips”. Compare this approach, to the way Aminé goes about it on the very next verse, “Sippin’ on your sorrows as I fuck you by the lake”…there are many ways to get your point across. The clip for this is a lot of fun too, with Hope and Aminé (via Facetime) balling out in a time-warp evocative of the Renaissance period.
Created on the day before her 21st birthday, ‘All My Girls Like To Fight’ is a record that “plays loose on reality”. Here, Hope was happy to fictionalise and embellish how she was thinking and feeling at the time. Tala has always found confrontation uncomfortable and feels there’s maybe “some suppressed part of her that wants to throw hands and be rebellious”. There is an authentic flamenco, matador-like feel in the record’s production, a world that Millicent (Director) was eager to explore on the track’s video.
“I wish I could throw the first punch, but purity curbs my tongue”.
Cutely blending suburban London with a Spanish bullfight, Hope performs in your everyday UK driveway accompanied by her crew and a sea of red. For the first time too, we hear Hope rap proper. Idolising Kendrick Lamar, she’s always been tempted to lay down some rhymes and this was that chance to try her hand. “Looks in your eyes when she strikes, it’s an art. Nine with the arrow and the bow. Ten with the Glock, stashed away on the low”.
From here, the EP takes a deep breath and slows down. ‘Drugstore’ is a special record, being the only one composed outside the studio. Bunkered down in her bedroom over lockdown, using Frank Ocean’s acoustic efforts ‘Dear April’ and ‘Cayendo’ as a warm blanket, Hope strung this one together. ‘Drugstore’ is bare and vulnerable, symbolising how Hope was feeling at the time, as COVID ravaged Europe.
Taking a leaf out of books written by Kehlani and SZA, ‘Crazy’ is an R’n’B jam. Hope has said publicly that this song is all about parties that never reach great heights. Times where you’d love to wild out with your boo but unfortunately the vibe just ain’t right. “Sometimes all you want to do is have a good boogie!” Inspired by 90’s teen films binged over quarantine (Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You), Hope craved the rave, wishing she could “jump into the screen and dance along with actors”. A song born from a desire to escape cabin fever.
To cap it all off comes the stunning ‘Easy To Love Me’, the outright vocal highlight. Hope’s sings from the heart, as she tries to convince her lover she’s a better fit than their ex. The opening line is her favourite of the EP, “I can see your heart beneath your ribcage, you should save it for me” as it’s a throwback to what first inspired her to write music…poetry. It’s no doubt a unique and striking use of imagery. Interestingly, when speaking on the record, Hope raises the question of whether she is singing about fact or fiction? For her mind, it doesn’t matter, that’s up to the audience to decide and take out of it what they will. Hope calls herself an “unreliable narrator”. Unreliable or not, she’s got one hell of a gift.
So pop on some headphones and let Hope narrate. See how you feel and what you recall. This is what the young Londoner has been encouraging all along.
“It’s none of my business really…once my songs are out in the world, it’s up to whoever’s listening to relate it to their own experiences and make their own minds up. That’s what’s great about art”.