Rose’s most honest and most refined record to date.
After generating buzz with her folksy debut Like I Used To in 2012, Lucy Rose was poised to break through with Work It Out in 2015. However, joining up with Columbia Records proved to be more of a hindrance to Rose than a benefit. Columbia pushed Rose toward a more synthetic pop style in order to target wider audiences. Although the album achieved success and featured dynamic tracks such as “Our Eyes” and “Like an Arrow,” Rose seemed to lose confidence in herself and her music.
What followed was a journey of self-discovery that culminated in her latest release, fittingly titled Something’s Changing. The path to this record took the English singer to unexpected places—the homes of fans in Latin America. With just a backpack and her guitar, Rose played free shows throughout Latin America, lodging with her fans and opening herself up to new cultural experiences. Rather than connecting with a wider audience through a more chart-friendly sound, she connected with her fans by living with them. Although it might sound cliché to say that Rose found herself during her international travels, the album that emerged from these experiences certainly finds a more confident Rose.
Without the pressures of a major label, Something’s Changing is Rose’s most honest and most refined record to date. Although her international experiences have not dramatically transformed her sonic repertoire, they certainly influenced her lyrics. Finding inspiration in the connections with her fans and in the self-reflection that often accompanies extended travel, Rose doesn’t shy away from addressing touchy subjects. She gets political. She gets emotional. She looks at the intersections of the collective and the personal, keenly aware of the way we are all relational. To quote the album’s meditative intro, she confronts what it means to be “Feeling it all/ All the good, the bad, the happy, the sad.”
Rose translates this “feeling it all” into a “feeling for all” in the album’s first full song, “Is This Called Home.” In Latin America, Rose heard numerous stories about social injustice, causing her to pursue more global themes. As a result, “Is This Called Home” considers the current refugee crisis, reflecting on displacement and the experience of being “othered.” With a reverberating guitar-line akin to Daughter, elevated by strings and cymbal rolls, the song poignantly matches its sonic qualities with its call for empathy.
The politics of “Floral Dresses,” one of the album’s singles, addresses rigid gender roles. Strumming a single acoustic guitar in the vein of a country ballad and empowered by the Staves’ sonorous harmonies, Rose rebels against aesthetic and consumer items associated with traditional femininity—dresses, lipstick, and jewelry. Rather than buying into the superficial markers of female beauty, Rose finds beauty in remaining raw, which she parallels in the song’s own nakedness.
Her personal transformation begins in “Strangest of Ways,” a jaunty tune that casts James Bay-like hooks into a sea of jazzy syncopation. By opening herself to “living in the wild” and “seeing beauty in the strangest of ways,” Rose embraces difference, finding a renewed vision of herself and the world. “Second Chance” follows a similar trajectory, but it has a more conscious narrative of coming to self-love. Sounding like a contemporary blend of Joni Mitchell and Carole King, Rose drives hitches of piano and whirls of strings into a chorus about the transformative power of self-recognition: “Take my photograph/ Keep it until I’m old enough to know/ That I was loving and I was truthful/ If only I could’ve seen it/ If only I could’ve believed it/ This could be my second chance.” Functioning like a different kind of mirror, this “photograph” requires Rose’s more clear-sighted future perspective to become the foundation for living “An honest life where I could love myself for who I am.”
After finding this self-love, she finds “love in the nearest of places” in the following “Love Song,” a moving 6/8 ballad embellished by the twang of a slide guitar. Rose celebrates her lover for helping her “believe in the world again.” This new belief manifests itself in the song’s coda, a sprightly tryst of guitars and vocals. As the only dash of Latin flavor on the album, this ending dishes up a hot peppered serving of Fleetwood Mac.
But for all of the album’s self-love, Rose’s most beautiful moment is one of vulnerability and despair in “Moirai.” By addressing a former lover as well as the Greek god of fate, Rose elevates loss to a mythic level. With mournful piano, a bevy of strings and the accompanying harmonies of Marcus Hamblett, the song is a stunning portrait of grief, one that will haunt its listeners beyond its last notes.
That said, the record has its occasional missteps. For example, “No Good at All,” another single featuring the Staves, employs a pop chorus that feels too tightly produced, belying the album’s greater openness. And Rose’s overuse of vibrato on “Find Myself” makes the track waver in ways the rest of the record doesn’t.
Ultimately, though, if Work It Out missed the mark of being Rose’s breakthrough, Something’s Changing hits it on a number of levels. As a record of personal development inspired by her experiences with her fans in Latin America, Something’s Changing is the album Rose needed to write, not only for herself but also for the upward trajectory of her career.