Songstress, Syd, is back with her second album, The Broken Hearts Club. After a five-year hiatus, it’s easy to argue that it’s been long overdue. However, the album, I assure you, is worth the wait.
Gone is the braggadocious, steal-your-girl persona that was ever-present in her past solo and collaborative projects with neo-soul supergroup, The Internet. This album presents a matured and vulnerable artist who’s found their muse with no intentions of going back to steamy hookups and flirtatious rendezvous. From the onset of exciting infatuation to questionable motives, Syd takes listeners on a journey that will inevitably end with a non-refundable ticket to the Broken Hearts Club.
The album was about love. And it certainly starts out that way. It’s what nearly the first two-thirds of the album reflects. Still, the transition from falling in love to realizing that things aren’t what they appear isn’t jarring. Instead, the album assumes a steady pace accompanied by cohesive storytelling.
Before releasing music as a solo artist, Syd found success with the all-male, controversial hip-hop collective, Odd Future, and as the face and voice of the soulful, funkadelic band, The Internet. In 2017, she released her debut album, Fin, to much acclaim. At a time when singing about same-sex relations wasn’t very popular, Syd chose authenticity. As the singer and only woman in The Internet, she didn’t shy away from vocalizing her past and present experiences with women. She gave queer women, particularly black women, music in which they could identify. Her soft and airy voice could have easily been drowned out by the more powerful female voices in the genre but her pen leaked urgency.
Holding her own in the company of men seems to come easy to the singer. She can flex with the best of them but isn’t afraid to be a fiend for the right woman. It isn’t uncommon to see comments from self-proclaimed “straight” women under both The Internet’s and Syd’s solo YouTube videos questioning their own sexuality as she serenades over crisp instrumentals. With past lyrics, “So you should come here and sit yo ass on this throne/It’s a special affair, better act like you know who I am, who I am…” and “As usual, I long for your embrace/I’m a fiend for your attention,” Syd has a song for the swaggering tease and the shy lover.
Syd began working on the Broken Hearts Club at the end of 2019 when the coquettish crooner was madly in love. However, just as the pandemic incited lockdowns, her partner ended the relationship. Heartbroken, Syd attempted to work through her pain by writing but her lyrics were coming out angry and bitter. She decided to take a break and come back to the project when she was in a better place. The result is a relatable work of art with the artist’s heart embedded in every track.
Broken Hearts Club starts with Syd cautiously approaching a woman in “CYBAH.” The 80s, synth-heavy, Prince-inspired production sets the stage with prudent questioning. Lucky Daye performs a brief verse over up-and-coming producer, Brandon Shoop’s, smooth, shoulder-shimmering beat. By the next song, “Tie the Knot,” Syd is already contemplating marriage. “I like you a lot…” “I can’t even lie, you might be the one” she sings coyly over a bouncy Syd-produced track. Though short, it’s a fun bop where Syd’s vocals effortlessly glide over the playful production.
The next two tracks, “Fast Car” and “Right Track” continue the lighthearted venture of falling in love. Syd is having the time of her life finding herself in spontaneous sexual situations with her new lover in the former and overjoyed with the couple’s future in the latter.
“Fast Car” is another 80s-inspired throwback with an awe-inspiring guitar solo played at the end, just before the song trails off into tranquil bliss. “Right Track” boasts a Spanish guitar riff reminiscent of urban Top 40 songs of the 2000s. With a smooth assist from Smino, Syd reassures her love interest that there is a future for them.
On “Sweet,” Syd puts it all on the line. “No more playin’, No more clubbin’, No more frontin’, babe,” she sings. “Nothin’ but sweet sweet sweet lovin’ babe.” It’s certainly a proclamation. While devoted listeners are well-aware that Syd has been infatuated before (hence The Internet’s discography), it’s a first that so many songs are dedicated to one woman and to one relationship. It’s exciting to witness this vulnerable side of the young artist. Syd’s vocals remain as serene and velvety as ever but the album’s theme makes this declaration that much sweeter.
Veteran producer, Darkchild, produced “Control,” a catchy tune that will likely remind listeners of the Timbaland and Aaliyah era of the 90s. However, unlike her previous seductive songs, Syd allows her lover to take control during their intimate meeting. The track feels like a tease whereas the mild and cool, chopped and screwed follow-up, “No Way,” is the act. Finally, “Getting Late,” presented with the elegant falsettos of a satisfied lover, is the afterglow. “Clock’s tickin’ it’s gettin’ late/But we just don’t wanna go to bed.” Syd’s words melt into the heavy, dream-like production.
But ecstasy only lasts for so long. “Out Loud” pairs Syd and Kehlani in a standout track with the soulful strum of an acoustic guitar and seamless harmonies. It’s here that cracks in the relationship are revealed. “I’ve been wondering, are we anything?” Syd questions with sincerity. “Don’t understand why you haven’t told your friends,” she continues. It’s a beautifully produced and written song that’s sure to be in rotation for some time.
“Heartfelt Freestyle” and “BMHWDY” are the results of that confrontation. “BMHWDY” reunites Syd with her bandmate of The Internet, Steve Lacy, who lends his production talents to the industrial-sounding track. “Goodbye My Love” is a heart-wrenching confessional led by a sad and whimsical organ. Syd’s buttery and propitious vocals are replaced by a somber low murmur. Her sense of dejection makes her pain all the more palpable.
In “Missing Out,” Syd comes to terms that the relationship is over. Its computerized and futuristic production is the perfect nod to the future. “As far as I can see, you and me can never be,” she concludes. “You’re missing out.”
Broken Hearts Club is a conceptual album that beautifully captures the essence and thrill of falling in love and the devastation that occurs when it comes to an end. Syd’s lyrics illustrate the complexities of a relationship that, despite her precautions and optimism, is destined to fail. Production is diverse with whimsical and euphoric tunes mixed with synth-heavy songs that pay homage to the past and futuristic tech-driven beats that acknowledge the future. Syd’s vulnerability is sincere and her growth is impressive.