In rock n’ roll, women usually fall into two categories. You have the ‘whoa is me, my heart is broken’ type and you have the ‘you broke my heart, now I’m going to kick your ass’ type. Following in the proud traditions of femrockers like Pat Benatar and Alanis Morissette, Emma Shaka is definitely one of the latter ones. On her new album Who I Am, she’s backed by an equally capable band and sings with a passion missing from many of her contemporaries. Songs in this collection tackle subjects near and dear to the hearts of women without giving into the emotional bondage that comes often comes with them.
Who I Am, a radio-friendly Pink-esque ballad is a gorgeous example of how Shaka can pour her heart out without leaving it on the ground to be stomped on. She proves here that a ballad doesn’t have to expose one’s vulnerability. Instead, she laments the fact her lover doesn’t really know her or anything about her. Many women listening will easily sympathize with this, making this song one of the breakout tracks on the album.
Other tracks range from hard rocking to dark and moody, all displaying the powerful vocal prowess of this singer from a French Territory called Reunion Island. The lead off single, Can You Hear Me, throws down the gauntlet in the indie-music scene and, indeed, the entire recording industry itself. She demands to be heard above the din of every studio manufactured artist and band competing for attention.
Like Alanis Morissette’s You Oughta Know almost two decades ago, the track Sex Away could become an anthem for young women fed up with men who treat them like shit then dump them. Blatantly risque, Shaka kicks a man to the curb for cheating on her. But the attitude given is pure girl-power. Is isn’t that he cheated. No, he cheated on the best thing he’ll ever have. The lyrics may be raw, but there is a positive message here for every high school girl being dumped on by a guy not worthy of her.
Choosing to avoid labels for her music, many different styles are evident here. Case in point: Echos of folk, country and, finally, Janis Joplin can be all be heard in Let Me Try. For a taste of true bruising alt-rock, check out the track Coming Up.
It’s rare to find an album where every song sounds fresh. There’s no filler in this ten song collection, just a proud singer showing off her chops and songwriting capabilities So impressive is this effort, we might one day see Emma Shaka standing atop a heap of helium-voiced American Idol wannabes like an Amazon in battle exclaiming “Can You Hear Me!?”
And the answer will be a resounding YES.