Now, pay attention, because it’s doubtful that Thea Gustafsson and her project Becky and the Birds will be any sort of a secret much longer. Hailing from Sweden, Gustafsson is a triple-threat singer, songwriter, and producer. After spending years writing in sessions (for, as she explained in recent interviews, a string of odious “dudes” in the male-dominated music industry) she is striking out on her own as Becky and the Birds.
I’m glad she made the move because her debut single, Holding On, is freaking fantastic. Wonderfully genre-defying, it is lush, ambient electro-pop seamlessly blended with a dank, driving R&B/hip-hop beat and airy, soulful vocals.
This is a song with many moods to it. You can’t quite pin it down. The vocals are fuzzed out and manipulated, making the lyrics (outside of the single chorus line “I keep holding on!”) hard to discern. There’s an overarching melancholy interspersed with euphoria; quiet reverie interrupted by loud release.
It’s that build-to-release that really caught my ear and compelled me to hit “repeat” six times on my initial listen. Gustafsson’s gentle, breathy vocals start off backed by a slow, dreamy keyboard. But, then, a pause…and a swell of atmospherics…and a tight, quickened beat…and a soaring, pitched-up lyric line that leads – explosively – into a next-level chorus with layered vocals and a killer beat. Almost the opposite of a dub-drop, it’s a “double build” that carries you up and then up again. And, man, the groove she locks into in the chorus is the type of head-nodder that you just want to stay in for days.
With an opening act like this, we’ll be Holding On for Becky and the Bird’s debut EP, expected out later this year. (If you’re honest with yourself, you knew that pun was coming.)