by Gisela Factora (@giselafactora)
Right off the bat, The Royal They’s sophomore album, Foreign Being, explodes into "C.N.T.," an instantly iconic feminist anthem. In the era of a self-professed pussy grabbing president, vocalist Michelle Hutt yells viciously, “I know you’ll try to fuck the world but you will not fuck me.” That’s only the tip of a wonderfully lyrically complex iceberg, detailing the contrast of the personal and the political in just over three minutes.
The personal and the political isn’t the only contrast The Royal They explore over the course of Foreign Being. Hutt’s voice is simultaneously delicate and powerful, and every syllable in every song drips with emotion, whether it’s the red-hot rage of “C.N.T.” or the quiet resolve of “Veritas,” a standout in the middle of the album that attempts to make peace with being out of control of one’s life, and trying your hardest just to get by. In every song, they transition seamlessly from distortion-heavy riffs, pounding drums and screaming vocals to a lone bass line, or a chord progression stripped bare, and back again. It’s a meticulously engineered sonic rollercoaster, and a delight to listen to. They even give the listener breaks between some songs, with 10-second transitions that sound nothing like the songs they connect, such as the light-hearted scatting between “Gullethead” and “Weekender.” It’s an experience somewhat akin to turning the dial on the radio between rock stations and accidentally picking up the frequency of an easy listening station for a brief period, surprising and kind of amusing.
What makes The Royal They incredible is their talent for showing that these contrasts are not really contrasts at all. “C.N.T.” shows that sometimes, the most effective form of resistance is simply to assert ownership over one’s body. The album is at its most powerful when it is delicate and vulnerable, both in terms of lyrical content and vocals. A standout example of this is “Gullethead,” which opens with the line, “We’re almost 30 years old / and we have no more insights / than we had when we were 15.” Hutt’s voice continues to narrate a tale of barely-concealed frustration addressed to someone who has a lot of growing up to do, and though her voice is light and airy, you can also definitely hear the clenched teeth when she sings, “I’m angry all the fucking time.”
The album ends on a similarly explosive note to the opener, with the very pop-punk “Weekender.” It follows the same thread of defiance as “C.N.T.,” but much more triumphantly this time, as Hutt sings, “Yeah I’m where I wanna be right now / Yeah there’s nothing else to figure out,” in a catchy chorus that was made to be screamed along to in a crowd of collective catharsis. It’s a perfect, reckless closer to an album that shows that angst isn’t just reserved for teenagers. I’m definitely going to be listening to Foreign Being on repeat as I enter my 20s, and I highly recommend that same process for anyone else coming into adulthood and slowly realizing that no one really has this “adulting” stuff figured out.