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Kilo Kish falls flat on new album ‘AMERICAN GURL’

Kilo Kish wears her influences on her sleeve on her new album "AMERICAN GURL," and the result is underwhelming and derivative.
Kilo Kish wears her influences on her sleeve on her new album "AMERICAN GURL," and the result is underwhelming and derivative.

Ever since my first encounter with FKA Twigs and her magnum opus “MAGDALENE” in 2019, my life has been a constant search for the next artpop/electronic/R&B/I-don’t-know-what masterpiece.

With Kilo Kish’s “AMERICAN GURL,” released March 25, I’ve decided it’s time to put that search to rest. It turns out no one can walk the path Twigs has laid.

American singer Kilo Kish is no newcomer to the music scene; She’s been putting out projects since the release of her debut EP, “Homeschool,” in 2012. Still, “AMERICAN GURL” is just her second album, following up “Reflections in Real Time” in 2016.

It would be a mistake to assume she’s spent the past six years working on this album. In that time, she’s released two more EPs and multiple collaborations, so it’s not like she’s devoted every waking moment to perfecting the 14 songs on this album.

Still, I found myself disappointed.

The album opens with “PLAY,” a 30-second intro made to sound like a group of friends in an arcade decided to play the album. 

I’m sorry to all the “Donda Chant” and “DVD Menu” fans out there, but I’m tired of albums opening on non-songs. Not every opener can rise to the heights of “Introvert” on Little Simz’s “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert,” but at minimum a song would be nice.

Initial misgivings aside, the album hits a high point on the next two songs, “AMERICAN GURL” and “DEATH FANTASY.”

On the title track, Kish sings about how she doesn’t know her partner anymore, asking if she’ll find an “American girl” at the bottom of his locked drawers. The song may be about cheating, but it has a fun beat and especially catchy verses.

“DEATH FANTASY” slows the album way down and darkens the sound to about as menacing as you can go while making way for background vocals by Miguel. The pounding rhythm mixed with almost choral ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from Miguel pair surprisingly well with Kish as she chants about how the death of her aesthetics, image and intellect has freed her.

This is where we start to fall apart.

“DISTRACTIONS III: SPOILED ROTTEN” had the potential to be my favorite song. It continues a theme from her previous album, started with “DISTRACTIONS I” and “DISTRACTIONS II,” and I’m a sucker for continuity.

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Instead, I got a Rina Sawayama ripoff with weaker vocals.

“DISTRACTIONS III” is essentially “XS” with fewer words and worse production. Consumerism bad. Person greedy. Cool. But what made “XS” shine was its almost metal arrangement and witty lyrics. All Kish can offer is some stereotypical electronic dialing tones and the super original lyrics, “I’ve been spoiled rotten / Give me a glimpse and never again.”

Instead of improving, Kish follows that unfortunate dud of a song with a string of misses. “NO APOLOGY!” is forgettable both lyrically and sonically, “BLOODY FUTURE” promises in name to give Poppy and instead gives annoying, and “CHOICE COWBOY” brings in Jean Dawson for a feature I didn’t even notice until sitting down to write this.

I’m a Kilo Kish fan, I promise. Ever since I heard her tell her entire family and name history in two minutes on “Hello, Lakisha,” I was hooked by her writing.

The problem is, she’s not a great singer.

She dressed it up on her last album with a jazzy production and a more rap-centric flow, and it worked. On this album, she ditches that approach, leaning fully into artpop, hyperpop and every other electronically-produced album.

I thought the storytelling from her last album could lend itself to this new sound and make something unique. Instead, all I hear is what she’s a derivative of.

“NEW TRICKS: ART, AESTHETICS, AND MONEY” is Charli XCX. “ON THE OUTSIDE (JUSTIN’S SONG)” is FKA Twigs. The entire rest of the album pretends to be as experimental and innovative as Iranian singer Sevdaliza’s discography and instead gives Grimes (derogatory).

Oh, and the closer, “CONTINUE?” is essentially a 1980’s video game soundtrack.

I really, really wanted to like this album. The sad truth is that this genre of electronic maximalism just isn’t for me. Does that mean the album is bad? Not necessarily. But it is derivative, and for that reason, I’m out.

Rating: 4/10