2021 proves to be a year of anticipated artist returns bringing out their best music yet. Charlotte Cardin displayed her imminent jazz tunes and sensual voice with two captivating EPs in 2016-2017 but mercilessly left us hungry for more.
Her debut full-length Phoenix came out on April 23rd this year. The album collects Charlotte’s stories and experiences for the past four years and brings back her captivating voice and songwriting in all their glory.
Mellow and gentle tones overflowing with emotion and treating the ear to an explosion of flavours make up for a stunning first impression. Jazz tunes united with modern inspiration and different genre blends hit next. The finishing touches come from the intimate storytelling, genuine and transparent experiences, relatable emotional substance, and one-of-a-kind lovely atmosphere.
You can read about my first impression of Charlotte Cardin’s music here
Charlotte Cardin was not sitting idly during her absence from the scene. In-between balancing her personal life and modelling career, she was actively accumulating material for her debut full-length and developing songs steadily.
The final result speaks for itself – Phoenix collects thirteen tracks uniting different stories, moods, and feelings under Cardin’s trademark musical competence.
Phoenix is rich in stories and styles. A lot of it is Cardin’s own life and experience, but her surroundings and the people she crossed paths with inspire a great portion of the tracklist.
Even though there is no grand concept behind it, Phoenix is far from the typical pop record you can play on shuffle. The songs have a lot in common when it comes to themes, but more importantly, they flow from one another smoothly and seamlessly, making up for impressive cohesiveness throughout.
The title track is a great opener reminding listeners of Cardin’s beautiful voice and accurate constructions of sound and mood. The acoustic nature of the song fits the narrative dealing with rushing a relationship when you are not ready to commit.
This is a song about not being ready to love someone the right way because you haven’t discovered how to love yourself yet. And I find that’s such a universal concept: not being able to welcome someone in your life just because your life is so fucking messy at the moment, and you’re still looking for things that you haven’t figured out yourself.Charlotte Cardin for Apple Music
The whole song has an apologetic, confessional tone admitting flaws and showing dedication to improve. It is a strong start, a powerful message, and a relatable story using the image of the phoenix as an analogy of rebirth after death.
Intestinally enough, the record ends with a track showcasing a similar thematic. Je Quitte is the only song on the album where Cardin sings in French, displaying her beautiful voice and clever lyricism in a different light.
‘Je quitte’ means ‘I’m leaving.’ It’s a song about needing a break. The chorus says, ‘I’m leaving, but I’m not leaving you.’ It’s just like, ‘I need to go for a walk, or go away for a weekend, or I just need to not be with you right now,’ even though you still love that person. But in that moment, you just need to leave or else you’ll punch your bedroom wall.Charlotte Cardin for Apple Music
The track is charming and emotional. The instrumental execution fits perfectly for a closing of the record and supports the theme accordingly.
A big portion of the album pays tribute to love in its many joyful and hurtful manifestations. Accurately positioned at the end of the tracklist, Romeo is one of the most appreciative and lovely tracks on Phoenix.
I was born
Love you more
Made for me
A flower in a garden
And on repeat
Romeo is also one of Cardin’s most personal, intimate tracks. It is dedicated to her long-term boyfriend and brilliantly celebrates genuine love.
Personal details and references like the first date, listening to Radiohead on repeat and realizing how much this person means to her unite with a simple lo-fi beat and catchy structure to deliver the best possible experience.
Oceans and Sun Goes Down (Buddy) are two other tracks that show the emotional and intimate side of Cardin. The first song goes through the pain, struggle, and dedication necessary for a successful long-distance relationship.
A lot of desire and genuine feelings are encapsulated in the ballad-like track making it one hard-hitting piece.
Sun Goes Down (Buddy) has an acoustic nature enhancing the already emotional vocals even further. It is another heartfelt song filled with love and support towards a struggling friend.
How you holdin’ up?
Want me to stay the night?
When it’s all too rough
I hope you’ll realize
That I can hold your hand when the sun goes down
Cardin wrote it for someone close to her dealing with addiction and anxiety. All the emotions she felt can be easily understood. The track is an anthem of strong friendship and honest concern delivered with great lyrics and vocals.
Meaningless, a song appearing earlier in the tracklist shows a similar overflow of emotions presented with heartfelt lyricism. The track deals with expressing the desire to take a risk but not live a meaningless love-deprived life. Taking the risk and suffering the consequences but being bold.
The song is about choosing momentary relief over any long-lasting numbness. The song is about our wounds and addictions. The song is about love. The song is about how our connection to one another is our only salvation.Charlotte Cardin via Instagram
Meaningless also features a charming tempo switch from slow and steady to over-energized and upbeat.
Daddy continues the theme and vibe outstandingly well. It has a catchy, addictive build-up over a looping beat. Cardin delivers piercing lines about taking control and making tough decisions in complicated situations.
The track hits hard and reminds listeners about the importance of taking risks for the sake of love and thrill.
Sad Girl is one of the earliest singles of Phoenix (9th of April 2021). It is also one of the catchiest songs in her entire discography.
I gotta tell you all my best songs
I wrote the week you left
I got an album from this fucking mess
It is a sad love song with a powerful twist. The lyrics and mood both display the ability to hold power over sorrow and tears despite being mistreated and underappreciated.
It is a great reminder of how using sadness to your advantage can change your entire energy. All of this delivered with Cardin’s sensual voice and masterful composition.
The track deals with a toxic relationship and unhealthy behavior we tend to tolerate blinded by love. There is an empowering display of courage about breaking the chain and shaking the toxicity away presented with illustrative storytelling and hard-hitting real-life references.
You tattooed my name on your neck
And you came home to apologize
You lovе that I love you enough to forgive you again
So I promisеd to stand heart in heart, hand in hand
But then you let me down again
Thought this shit was over, you’re the best when you’re sober
The gentle, slow, and mellow sound and vocal delivery complete the beauty of the song and make it simply irresistible.
Fun fact, the male vocals you think you hear is Cardin’s voice pitched down
XOXO fit the theme of toxicity and unpleasant love experiences. The song is special for the witty vocal and sound execution as well as the way it tells the story.
Summer left me broken
And your cold rain had me soakin’
You know where I left my heart in
The hands of a child
XOXO shows the perspective of both people involved in the “love accident”. Cardin uses her pitched-down voice to showcase the male perspective and gives us extra details of a situation where a man cheats on his girlfriend.
The first part of the song tells her side of the story, while the second one shows the male perspective. Dreamy but serious tunes support the narrative. The addictive chorus of sending “fists full of kisses” to a “list full of bitches” is sure to stay in your head for a while.
Passive Aggressive is a song with a celebratory, cheerful vibe. It puts the triumph of liberating yourself from a toxic relationship and embracing self-love and appreciation on the forefront.
That is visible in both sound and lyrics – a mellow, attractive voice filled with care, love, and confidence despite the heavy subject in question. It is a true anthem for self-appreciation and a great reminder that everyone deserves to be happy.
It took a week or two
Getting over you
But I love myself too much
To waste good years on bad love
‘Passive Aggressive’ is basically a song about the relief, celebration, and liberation you feel once you get rid of a toxic relationship. It’s about a very passive aggressive ex and just those toxic vibes. It’s being happy to be on your own and embrace your inner strengthCharlotte Cardin via Indie88
Some tracks on the record have a more provocative nature. Sex To Me is one such song putting forth the sexual, lustful nature of humans.
Du-du-dumb, I ain’t dumb, I can see you
Come-come-come-come-comin’ up with ideas
Switchin’ it up, oh, what? Now I’m your diva
You’re out of luck, baby, I might deceive ya
Thought we had a deal
It’s just sex to me
The piece still incorporates real love and the natural emotionality of Cardin. However, the focus is elsewhere.
The lyrics and playful melody take us through a sex-only relationship threatened by the other person catching feelings and getting wrong ideas. The storytelling is vividly illustrative, once again adding life-inspired details and becoming easily relatable.
Anyone Who Loves Me is the track derailing from the love-inspired themes. It deals with the pressure that comes with being a woman and the complexity of following your true self instead of being “domesticated”.
I rest my case
Domesticated bitches in Adidas
And I hired guns, I hired some
To fake it ’til I make it, baby
An 80s dance/RnB freestyle kickstarted the song, and the essence of that inspiration is still intact. There is a slightly dramatic, sad undertone in the narrative mixed in with powerful, condiment remarks during the chorus.
Charlotte Cardin already proved herself with her early EPs. However, a proper full-length debut was more than welcome, and she managed to confirm that the initial hype around her music was well-deserved.
Phoenix tells real-life stories with passion and emotion you rarely see in modern music. The album satisfies the hunger that piled up during the four-year absence of the artist. It also makes us hope the next new music comes faster – the voice and energy Cardin tames are necessary for the scene.
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