Emily Frith’s new EP would make a great companion piece to the new adaptation of Little Women. Having fallen in love all over again with the characters in Louisa May Allcott’s tale, thanks to the excellent direction of Greta Gurwig and a commanding performance from Saoirse Ronan as Jo, I notice that the same themes of female empowerment and fulfilment beyond romantic love crop up in Open Book. It is a sign that, at the start of a new decade, the female voice is finally being given some serious room to speak.
Where artists like Taylor Swift and Maren Morris paved a way in the 2010s, now the next generation of female musicians have the opportunity to cement their path. Frith is among them. You can hear the influence of Swift in her music, most potently in opening track ‘Better’, where the pop production mixes wonderfully with lyrical honesty. These lyrics reflect both a vulnerability and defiance that ultimately send a message of empowerment to her listeners, as Frith sings that, despite words that hurt, break ups that wound, and lies that make you cry, ‘everything that hurt you made you better’.
Frith is speaking out of her own experience, laying bear the inherent contradictions that make us such complicated beings in the process. So, in ‘Out’, we get lost in order to find ourselves. And even as she declares that she is ‘Giving Up on Love’, she also has this undeniable urge to ‘Want to Love’. This push-and-pull of romantic expectations and individual value is pertinently reflected in the character of Jo March. In perhaps the standout scene in Little Women, she declares that “Women… have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent, as well as beauty, and I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for. I’m so sick of it!”
Frith embodies all of the above in her music. ‘Giving Up on Love’ is a kind of anti-lovesong, in the same way as Kelsea Ballerini, in ‘I Hate Lovesongs’, rejects the social stereotypes around love. Neither of them dismiss love entirely however. Rather, Kelsea’s admittance ‘but I love you’, and Emily’s ‘I want to love somebody so much’, recognise that it is mind and soul and heart. It is this truthful expression of the female experience, told through infectious choruses and high-end production (none more so than on ‘The Blue‘), which makes Frith a credit to her industry. Open Book displays immense maturity for one so young. Bigger things surely await the Essex-based songwriter.
Featured Image (C) Emily Frith