Review: Liv Dawson's 'Bedroom' EP is one of this year's highlights
She’s just nineteen years old, but it’s clear that English singer-songwriter Liv Dawson is much more than just the latest up-and-coming pop starlet
Liv Dawson’s EP Bedroom, released today, is an outstanding collection of assured, contemporary pop of the type you are more likely to hear from an established artist, not a teenager on what is technically her debut extended release.
And that’s probably because she is far from a newcomer. Dawson started her career at the tender age of thirteen, writing songs with Grammy Award-winning songwriter Jimmy Napes (Sam Smith, Clean Bandit, Madonna) and at seventeen had signed to Method Records, owned by electronica duo Disclosure. Her first single ‘Tapestry’, a soulful R&B groove, was released in 2016 and was followed over the next two years by no fewer than ten further singles. As she’s honed her craft, Dawson has explored territory beyond her early R&B sound, moving into trancey electronica (‘Open Your Eyes’), club bangers (‘Searching’) and more traditional pop (‘Talk’).
So it’s no surprise that there’s a pleasing variety of genres across the four tracks on Bedroom. It’s almost like Dawson is displaying a different aspect of her personality on each track. Opening track ‘I Like You’ brings to mind the Scandipop of Zara Larsson, Tove Styrke or Astrid S with its playfulness, sparse beats and jittering chorus. The lyrics capture perfectly the awkwardness of wanting someone but not knowing how to tell them: “Tryna play it cool / Keep on hanging back / But I think you caught my stare”. The title track is an atmospheric electro ballad with a gorgeous multi-layered chorus, all held together by Dawson’s warm, emotive, rich vocals. Closing track ‘Nobody but You’ continues in a similar vein – another warm, stripped-back ballad but this time tinged with electro-country and guitar pop.
It is the third track and first single released from the EP, ‘Good Intentions’, that stands out as the highlight of Bedroom. A brooding, moody and funky track – think hefty doses of electronica and pop, with a bit of grime thrown in – it has a deliciously addictive chorus that builds from an almost a cappella start into a full-blown avalanche of melodies you’ll be more than happy to drown in. Lyrically, the song captures the feeling of losing your mind over someone when nothing make any sense in your head and nothing you say comes out right: “Cos I ain’t myself / When I’m burning / I got good intentions but I only make it worse”.
One of Dawson’s strengths is her ability to craft relatable lyrics, and she employs it cleverly on Bedroom. With a title that invokes intimacy, lust and yearning, Dawson weaves an overarching theme through the songs as we see a relationship progress. ‘I Like You’ perfectly captures the nervous, heady first days of liking someone before ‘Bedroom’ moves the relationship into more serious territory: “When it’s only us in your bedroom / Nothing can hold us down”. Dawson’s honest appraisal of her own self-doubt and anxieties in ‘Good Intentions’ sees the relationship wobble – “When I try just to tell ya / You don’t act like you’re listening / Why can’t you try and read my mind?” – before closer ‘Nobody But You’ sees the relationship permanently sealed. It’s an engaging story that lends an extra level of enjoyment to the EP and is further proof, if any more is needed, of Dawson’s skills as a pop-song storyteller.
With Bedroom, Dawson has almost breathed new life into the EP format, a medium that’s so often used to rush-release a handful of songs at once. Instead, she has successfully combined the musical journey of an album with the instant gratification of an EP and in turn has created one of the musical highlights of the year – in any format. Dawson has regularly hinted at a full-length album in the works, and if Bedroom is anything to judge by, it will be the perfect canvas to bring her knack for weaving lyrical stories to the fore and further experiment with genres. Dawson’s creative journey is one we can’t wait to see – and hear - more of.