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Single Review: Estani Frizzell “Tell Me Why”

It’s a new era for indie pop, and the most credible players of an emerging generation of talent are those who are able to take from many genres to make something entirely of their own design. Estani Frizzell, frequently known just as Estani, is one of these credible players, and her new single “Tell Me Why” is a testament to the uniqueness of her artistry. As both a song and a music video, “Tell Me Why” crushes conventionality by blending influences specifically from reggae, jazz, soul, and retro pop into a blended cocktail too sweet to be resisted, and from where I sit, it’s among the more charismatic tracks out this month.

Let’s start with the obvious – the soul in Estani’s delivery. While there’s a lot of punchiness to the groove she’s straddling with her verses, this player is never afraid to throw her voice in with the thrust of the backing band and allow for her words to become engrained with the physicality of the music. She’s got the kind of confidence that I rarely see or hear from artists on the outside of the mainstream looking in, and although she’s got plenty of time to get even better, her maturity here suggests she’s ready for a lot that her contemporaries just aren’t yet.

This reggae beat is one of the most alluring components of the bottom-end of the master mix, and as much as it sits beneath the melodic instrumentation as a foundation more than a starring feature, it’s always influencing the mood of the lyrics as much as anything else in the arrangement is. Estani isn’t leaning on the hook exclusively when it comes to contextualizing her poetry in this performance; the push she’s getting from the percussion is essential to her storytelling, relating her aesthetics to dancehall culture as much as they are a heady dose of western pop.

The music video for “Tell Me Why” combines the artsy vibe of the college radio scene with some of the more experimental themes I’ve been seeing in pop, rock, and alternative R&B lately, but the lushest elements on screen come from the pop aesthetic of the visual scheme. In simple terms, it’s like we’re watching the bounce of the rhythm come alive right before our eyes rather than looking at a filler-stained re-imagination of what the narrative of the lyrics was originally trying to get across to the audience.

Estani’s brilliant “Tell Me Why” is a colorful addition to any spring playlist, and though it blends influences that are as conflicting as they are outside of the mainstream model – at least from an old school perspective – the fluidity of the performance that she provides for us in this single and its music video really does speak for itself. There aren’t many in indie pop who deserve to be as swaggering as she does in this track and anything else she records moving forward, and if she continues to make music as catchy as “Tell Me Why,” her profile is only going to get bigger.

Keith Middlebrooks


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