Girl Of My Dreams is technically New Jersey vocalist FLETCHER’s debut studio album, but there’s already been a rollercoaster of a journey to get here. When I was lucky enough to interview her, she told me all about the internalized struggle to finally include pronouns and narratives in her music that made it abundantly clear that she was talking about same-sex relationships and all of the unique details that come along with them. Over the course of several EPs and one-off singles, the defining characteristic of FLETCHER’s music has been lyricism that gets almost uncomfortably personal and specific, so adapting her music to fully reflect her real-life experiences was a natural choice. On her latest collection of tracks, some of the heavier influences of today’s pop landscape begin to creep into her soaring pop choruses, delivered by a pristine and classically trained voice. While the trendier elements can be hit-or-miss, the strong songwriting makes this one a worthwhile experience for any pop fan. The clever twist on the title, revealed at the end of the album, makes it even better.
The opening track “Sting” is one of the more experimental from a sonic perspective, and certainly introduces listeners to what FLETCHER can do with her vocals. Beginning with some raw acoustic chords, FLETCHER sings about being unable to let a past relationship go before a chorus driven by some highly percussive, fuzzy bass notes drops and heralds a unique new sound for this style. There’s some great play with silences throughout the track, making the listener really feel it when FLETCHER describes that lingering “sting.” Her passionate higher register is consistently one of the best things about listening to her music, and it comes out even further on “Guess We Lied…,” a reinvention of sorts of one of FLETCHER’s older tracks in a new style. Picking up the energy with some thrumming power chords, she brings back one of her best lyrics – “If you’re gonna lie, at least do it in my bed” – and recontextualizes it now removed from the relationship that inspired it. The crashing, bombastic nature of the track certainly lets her vocals fly, especially on a belted bridge where she drops back on some higher notes, coming across as simultaneously powerful and vulnerable. The track “Birthday Girl” is one of the moments where FLETCHER gets so conversational and confessional that it almost disrupts the expected flow and structure of a song – the lower-key emotional track feels a little disjointed, more of a cathartic outpouring than a song you want to return to. Still, it’s interesting to hear FLETCHER’s take on a highly specific situation – she shares a birthday with her ex-partner, creating a constant unpleasant reminder of all their little traditions.
The track “Becky’s So Hot” generates an even more interesting specific situation. Clearly built for social media reactions with a couple lines that are a little too overtly online, it’s still an insane thing to put a song out into the world about creeping on your ex-partner’s new girl because of an attraction, not a hatred, and using their real names in the process. You’ve got to respect it. It comes equipped with a fun instrumental to match the cheeky, irreverent lyrics, beginning with a whimsical guitar riff and trap beat before exploding into an almost hyperpop mode with some blown-out crunchy guitars and percussion. The exasperation when she sings the word “hot” is worth the price of admission alone. The tracks “Better Version” and “Conversations” both have quite a bit going for them, but introduce some common issues that get worse a little later on. “Better Version” is an absolutely heartbreaking track about the unfortunately universal truth that we’ll never get the improved versions of our partners after a devastating breakup forces them to learn about themselves, and it activates the tear ducts enough that it overrides the strangely common theme with FLETCHER’s music that it sometimes feels just a half-step off rhythmically moving from the verse to the chorus. “Conversations” begins to get heavier with distortion, and begins to drown her striking vocal talent out by mixing her farther into the back. There’s a great melody here and an engaging dark-pop vibe, but what I want the most is to hear her sing as clearly as I can.
“Serial Heartbreaker” kicks off the album’s back-half with a brief track and the all-too-familiar “Blinding Lights” beat infiltrating all aspects of pop culture at the moment, but the speedy verses in FLETCHER’s lower register are exhilarating to hear, especially leading into a strong chorus. She really knows how to write for the most effective parts of her voice – it’s that yearning sigh in the mid-to-high range that carries all the emotion of these tracks. They try to do a half-time switch-up with the final chorus that doesn’t quite land, but it leads us into “Her Body Is Bible,” containing some of the most impressive vocal moments on the project. It’s a bit of an overdone concept at this point, but when FLETCHER belts out that soulful “Amen” over the shimmering, reverent synths that do a lot of work to frame it as a holy experience, it doesn’t matter too much. The beat kicks in for the 2nd verse, completing a joyful and upbeat song celebrating the sizzling excitement of new love. “I Think I’m Growing?” serves as a short, but necessary interlude transitioning into a portion of the album focused on self-love, as FLETCHER evolves into that aforementioned “better version” herself.
The final run is kickstarted by the title track, which introduces the album’s fantastic central twist – after all this time, the girl of FLETCHER’s dreams was herself. After lyrically running through all of her failed relationships – which is almost all the more effective because we know exactly what she’s talking about from the detail she poured into her previous releases – she settles on herself as the one she wants, even calling herself her own rebound. With a great drum fill as the song picks up intensity, it leads into a track that expresses similar ideas in even better musical terms. “Holiday” is an appropriately breezy, funk-laden track about taking a mental break, enjoying being over the drama like she was on a holiday. Easing up on her vocal power and leaning into the laid-back vibes, it brings out the self-love jubilation even better. “I Love You, Bitch” brings out some Julia Michaels-esque inflections, and they certainly share a similar songwriting style – the mirror affirmations are another trope that’s made a lot more meaningful here as a result of her descriptive nature. The closing track “For Cari” finds FLETCHER toasting to herself with her real name, but it feels like an oddly abrasive closer for such an “at peace” moment, blowing out her vocals after opening with some campfire-side acoustics. Still, the sentiment is nice.
Girl Of My Dreams is nearly as much of a rollercoaster as FLETCHER’s career has been up to this point, but she certainly demonstrates her skill as a songwriter as the narratives unfold. Still a bit rough around the edges, as she continues to get more comfortable in her own skin some more great music should follow.
Favourite Tracks: Becky’s So Hot, Her Body Is Bible, Guess We Lied…, Better Version, Sting
Least Favourite Track: For Cari