Olivia Dean’s debut album Messy has cemented her presence in the English pop-soul scene. Previously, Dean has collaborated with artists such as Loyle Carner and Leon Bridges, but her recent release places her smooth, soulful voice into the limelight it rightfully deserves. Messy has gracefully captured the hearts of its listeners, resonating especially among young fans navigating the stress and chaotic nature of womanhood.
Contrary to its title, however, Messy thoughtfully explores the chaos that comes with love. Dean embraces the multiple dimensions of relationships: the ups, the downs, and, of course, the messiness in between. The work has a soft beginning, setting the stage with “UFO” and “Dive,” whose hopeful and bouncy melodies reflect the optimism of trusting in someone else. Dean details that “[‘Dive’] is one of the main characters of the album…it’s a song about letting yourself love and be loved.” With “Dangerously Easy,” “Hardest Part,” and “Everybody’s Crazy,” however, the album gracefully shifts into an exploration of self-doubt and the pain of outgrowing a relationship. Slow and reflective ballads beautifully complement the pieces of acceptance and maturity that are sprinkled throughout the album. While she devotes much of the album to the exploration of relationships, Dean’s mantra of self-love and independence in “Ladies Room,” “No Man,” and “Messy” reflect the true essence of the record. “Messy,” my personal favorite, stands out stylistically from the rest, featuring a tense climb to a relaxing peak, which represents the long process towards self-acceptance. The record echoes the idea of allowing yourself to be imperfect, and “Carmen,” the final track and a dedication to Dean’s immigrant grandmother, culminates this beautiful reminder. Messy is both the warm embrace of a complicated past and the promise to welcome a messy future.
Ariya Shah is a first-year in the SFS studying International Politics.