Most of our relationships are toxic. Jessie Reyez is one of very few artists who use their platform to develop meaningful messages to the contemporary audience: toxicity in hollow human relationships. Climbing the charts with relatable and personal breakup messages, the Columbian-Canadian artist Jessie Reyez released her album, Being Human in Public, in 2016.
One of the most oddly-named songs, “Apple Juice,” shows off Reyez’s wide vocal range. Her soulful runs suggest pain. She sings, “Perfect ain’t coming, but we’ll be alright.”In an era where mental health is becoming a priority, Reyez demonstrates a one-sided fight love as she delivers this raw and throaty ballad. Reyez reveals that people are not taught how to love others. She suggests that love can overcome the mental toll of a toxic relationship. Food for thought.
“I got your heart in my hand and your dick in the other/ You ain’t scared to fuck, but you scared of being lovers,”
Reyez’s second song, “Fuck Being Friends,” is an attack against careless hookups framed by ghostly synths and snares. She sings, “I got your heart in my hand and your dick in the other/ You ain’t scared to fuck, but you scared of being lovers,” she snarls, with a gang of friends rushing in to back her up on her exclamation.
The up and coming artist sings about being with someone who is not scared to be intimate but terrified of intimacy. People who are caught in a strung on the relationship will find this message palatable as Reyez questions why the default is a relationship without substance.
Reyez then pokes holes in gender discrimination with “Body Count” in two ways. She conveys that women are not encouraged to hold the number of people that they have had sex with proudly whereas men are. She sings, “Cause if it just so happens that you turn around and ask me / I think you might feel some type of way.” Reyez highlights the social construct of shame women have to face about the number of people they have slept with could be taken as a turn-off. Unfortunately, the double standard is not in their favor.
Reyez abstains from using her iconic belts and unique runs and dips to illuminate the messages in the music video for “Body Count.” It shows Jessie Reyez found guilty of being a witch and given capital punishment. She is being stripped, tied to a pole and set on fire.
In the infamous witch trials, women had no mediums to prove their innocence because of their sex. The parallel between the lyrics and the video creates a tone of seriousness, cautioning women to either take pride in their body count or refrain from it being a necessity in a new relationship.
Finally, Reyez tackles two of the most challenging problems that artists face: making content that reflects them as an individual, and making content with substance. Reyez seamlessly provides on both ends with her last song “Sola.” The song is sung in Spanish, and it adds a new dimension of complexity as it amalgamates intersectionality into the album. Reyez’s uses her heartrending falsetto to deliver lyrics about leaving a lover behind. It’s low tone crescendos liven and encaptures its listeners to bring light to a nuanced culture of music in a North American dominated music society. Ultimately, her cutting edge art form is a step towards better music.
Being Human in Public exposes love as a dichotomy of hopelessness and expectation rooted in gender that we cannot fully unpack until we learn what “being human” means.