Originally written and published by me for Spectrum Culture.
Canadian singer and songwriter Allie X has made her name on synth-heavy dance-pop songs that have embraced all of the tropes that pop music fans hold dear: clever hooks that turn into earworms, irresistible synths, and a discography warmly embraced by the queer community, to name only a few. But on her new studio album Cape God, the indie pop queen finds herself turning inward and making some of her most honest music to date—in a way that is distinctly and deliciously Allie X.
On her previous releases CollXtion I, CollXtion II, and Super Sunset—all of which were largely synth-pop—Allie X became known for her provocative and unconventional visuals and image, which was evident everywhere from the country vibes of her heart turning to pulp on “Paper Love” to the eerie sounds of “Bitch” and “Simon Says,” reminiscent of something off a sci-fi soundtrack. As she progressed to more ‘80s-influenced synth beats on Super Sunset, Allie X continued to cultivate a unique ability to deliver incredibly unconventional sounds that often, upon first listen, come across as downright weird and unexplainable. But despite their bizarre lyrics and quality, like Kylie Minogue says, you just can’t get them out of your head.
On Cape God, Allie X embraces that ability to deliver bizarre songs that somehow stick with you like never before. The album’s lead single, “Fresh Laundry,” is certainly a departure from the synthesizers and vocal tools heard on “Girl of the Year” or “Science,” but that doesn’t mean the melody and intensely personal lyrics don’t linger after the song finishes. “You said you’re always on my side / But what if my side has changed too much?” she sings. “Then tell me, who am I?”
“Fresh Laundry” serves as the album’s opening track, which the singer described as the “perfect introduction to this story and this concept.” The concept in question, as we can hear, involves themes of growing up, not fitting in, finding our crowd, and embracing ourselves. We hear it again on “Regulars,” a misfit anthem that articulates how fitting in is overrated, and on the up-tempo bop “Sarah Come Home,” about having a friend outgrow you, but you still leave a light on for them. The synthesizers aren’t gone altogether, leaving their mark on “Rings a Bell,” the album’s second single.
Cape God continues to explore deeper themes on “Love Me Wrong,” a duet with Allie X’s frequent songwriting partner Troye Sivan. The song’s lyrics articulate how difficult it can be when a family’s love for you is not the type of love you might need from them, and how we often outgrow the image that our family holds for us. “Oh, you love me / You lose sleep over me / I know you love me / ‘Cause I’m there in your wallet,” Sivan sings. “I’ll never be how you remember me / So I’d rather be in your memory,” they sing together. The song resonates with anyone who has grown up and changed (read: everybody), and particularly with queer people whose growth and changes fail to be recognized by their families. Allie X revealed in an interview with Gay Times that she and Sivan had originally written the song for a film and it didn’t make the cut (most likely Boy Erased, in which Sivan co-starred in 2018), but she also explained how the lyrics came to define her own relationship with her family. “When you grow up you have this deep love for your family but you change into a new person and even that can be kind of heartbreaking, because those feelings you had when you were a kid, you can’t have them anymore because you’re a different person now,” she said. “There aren’t too many songs about that feeling, and that’s what I think makes it so special to me.”
Cape God might be more of a personal journey for Allie X in comparison to her previous efforts, but don’t be completely fooled: the album still houses one track that sounds like something out of the CollXtion era. The club-friendly “Super Duper Party People,” which practically begs you to dance, is proof that Allie X has layers, and always has. She can give us bops with magical synths that you will want to listen to on repeat for days, and she can also give us unconventional ballads with equally infectious lyrics that you will want to listen to on repeat for days. It’s called versatility.
Prior to the release of her first full-length album CollXtion II in 2017, Allie X released a prequel EP titled CollXtion II: Unsolved, which included a piano demo of her future hit “Casanova.” But the EP was also home to some honest, stripped-down ballads such as “Purge,” “Misbelieving,” and “Alexandra,” which explored themes of artistry and identity. The EP was ultimately removed from music streaming services, but Allie X is continuing that personal journey on Cape God and inviting us into her world, revealing her stories and vulnerabilities in a way that few other pop artists have.
Jeffrey’s favorites from Cape God: “Fresh Laundry,” “Devil I Know,” “Regulars,” “Sarah Come Home,” “Rings a Bell,” “June Gloom,” “Love Me Wrong,” “Super Duper Party People,” and “Learning in Public”