Here’s to the clubs we won’t get to dance in for the foreseeable future
The passage of time behaves in unusual ways. Valerie Teicher Barbosa—A.K.A. Tei Shi—wrote her latest EP in six days in El Paso, Texas, shortly after the release of her album La Linda in November of last year via Downtown Records, which she separated from. 2020 was supposed to see a full-blown tour with frequent collaborator Blood Orange, before getting cut short two dates in by the COVID-19 pandemic. The EP Die 4 Ur Love, written and produced in a nova burst of energy, had dark feelings as its fuel source. “I was feeling really sad and pessimistic, and the music all came from this place,” the Colombian-Canadian singer told Paper. Whether she intended it or not during her creative process, Tei Shi created a record that could also act as an anchor, a reference point between two events in which reality mercilessly tilts.
A lot of 2020’s released pop records find themselves inadvertently fulfilling the function of existential mooring. The likes of Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia, Rina Sawayama’s SAWAYAMA, and Lady Gaga’s Chromatica are echoes of pre-pandemic pleasure, odes to the dance floors of clubs that none of us predicted would go empty for half a year. This is the soundtrack of our lost summer. But there’s a greater, more urgent pining one can hear in this EP’s title track, the way Tei Shi actually uses the word “apocalypse” over Robyn-esque synths. In “Die 4 Ur Love” she sings “What we had is gone / I’m just holding on / To a trace of you / To a place I knew,” and the lines so high voltage, charged with their new subtext.
“Die 4 Ur Love” is the hit around which the rest of the EP orbits, and in every other song you can kind of hear how unburdened Tei Shi is by the rigmarole of multiple writers and producers that contributed to her last record, which is to say that while La Linda was a solid record for its precision engineering, Die 4 Ur Love is kinetic with impulse, Tei Shi just trying stuff out. The first track “Johnny” has the energy of an old Western that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Tarantino flick. “Disappear” carries a tune about wanting to replace heartache with numbness with laid-back guitar strums.
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And even though those numbers aren’t electric bangers, they still jive with the EP’s strong themes of emotionally working through a crisis. “OK crazy” is another bop we tragically won’t get to hear blasting from club speakers any time soon, a four-on-the-floor body-mover. The way Tei Shi sings “everybody get on the floor” is coquettish, the fizz of champagne on the lip of the bottle after the revelrous pop. Closing track “Goodbye” resonates with “Die 4 Ur Love’s” exploration of loss, so washed in synth and reverb and dirge-y with its groove and it feels like the chillwave stylings of early Washed Out. “Goodbye” is a track that might find a home in your bluer playlists, the kind you’d title an ex-lover’s promise just to find a home for the sting.
Label-less and putting work out in this hurricane of a year, Tei Shi’s EP nearly escaped the radar for many. The record’s plays on Spotify and YouTube were criminally low for the couple of weeks of its release, even for an independent artist filling the alternative pop niche. But it looks like the algorithm is turning the tide. You are likely going to find Die 4 Ur Love on your Recommended, its cover art showing Tei Shi on a Destiny’s Child meets “Fast & Furious” kinda design vibe. What we get with Die 4 Ur Love is an artist recentering and finding her footing after so many setbacks. It ain’t Crawl Space, but we’re likely going to see Tei Shi surpassing even her full-length debut and shattering new ground with what she does next. For now, as 2020 tries to whip up new storms, let Die 4 Ur Love be a pop record—with hope at its core—that keeps us rooted to solid ground.
You can listen to ‘Die 4 Ur Love’ on Spotify.
Words Jam Pascual
Art Alexandra Lara