Psyche is the debut album of Olivia Royal, a singer/songwriter from Chicago, Illinois. Conceptualized by a “trio” of sorts, Royal’s project doesn’t revolve around three separate members, but rather, three distinct representations of her identity, each with its own name. Her heart is called Isabela, her brain, Cassie, and her gut, Yummy, all set to the backdrop of dreamy-turned gritty, passionate R&B. Putting the process in summation, Royal states, “For a while, I felt so much pressure to define and present my brand identity as an artist when I was still trying to figure out who I was as a young woman, adding, “I decided not to cut myself down and choose one but instead showcase three different sides of me.”
The first side Royal introduces is Isabela, who appears assertive and dominant, but with a deeply rooted sense of vulnerability. She showcases two pertinent songs that express these nuances, with lead single “Glorious” representing her strong, sensual sense of self, while its flipside, “Attention” centers on her empathic frame of mind, having taken in the pain of loneliness while simultaneously craving the presence of the one she holds dear.
As the album progresses, the songs transition into the next personality, Cassie. Whereas Isabela seems like a beautiful pedestal, Cassie is the meticulously crafted foundation holding her intact. She is awkward, yet kindhearted, and by the same token, brainy, but humble. Her representative songs, “Time,” and “Crystal Clear,” thus center on keeping Isabela in check, carrying one aspect of cutting through unfulfilling endeavors, and the other involving becoming more aware of who she allows in her life. Royal’s third and final side, Yummy, is a bit of a contrast from her counterparts, both stylistically and thematically. This time, her tone comes across as tongue-in-cheek, the instrumentation is accordingly nonchalant and nonetheless hard-hitting. In “Mood Swings,” the penultimate track shifts perspective as well, focusing on how the problematic behaviors of others influence her maintaining her composure, and, when overwhelmed, her ability to bounce back. The final track, “El Dorado,” expands on this sentiment, and is by far the most involved from an instrumental standpoint. Everything from the bass-driven undertones in the main percussion to the top end-based shakers, to the guitar arrangement, is refreshingly upbeat and serves as a solid capping point in rounding out the traits of Royal’s identity.
Overall, Psyche is an ambitious undertaking, especially by underground female pop standards. Royal’s delivery is thoughtful and sincere, oftentimes carrying a brutal straightforwardness, but not without remembering to let loose and have fun. She seems well on her way in expressing a fair amount of creativity to the masses, and I’m definitely looking forward to how her future projects unfold.
Olivia Royal Socials: