With her third album, 2019’s 35-minute Grey Area, Little Simz offered hyper-articulate commentaries on family dynamics, racism, genderism, and more generally, how “othering” seems part and parcel of human evolution. Instrumentally, the album incorporated danceable beats, bass-driven riffs, garagey and orchestral accents, and hooky choruses that reconfigured Motown harmonies, R&B templates, and contemporary rock approaches.
With her new album, the more expansive Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (19 tracks, approximately an hour in length), Simz continues to explore familial and cultural themes. She moves from stream-of-consciousness confessions to epigrammatic observations, volatile rants to equanimous self-examinations, and personal confessions to broad societal diagnoses. The album’s instrumentation is more basic than on Grey Area, mostly functioning as a complementary yet understated backdrop. Simz’s voice, on the other hand, displays heightened nuance, the artist expressing a range of emotions, moving seamlessly between various levels of rage, sadness, and excitement.
The concept of introversion functions as an umbrella theme and is explored by Simz directly and obliquely throughout the sequence. In several “interludes”, a narrative voice emerges that serves alternately as a social analyst, Simz’s internalized life coach, and, particularly as the album progresses, a source of ageless wisdom. Reminiscent of a Greek or Shakespearean chorus (Zappa’s Central Scrutinizer from Joe’s Garage also comes to mind), the device allows Simz to distinguish between her “usual” self, revealed via first-person narratives and descriptions, and her “higher” self, to which she aspires.
On the opening track “Introvert”, the voice announces, sounding like a cross between an angelic guide and a game show host, “Your introversion led you here / intuition protected you along the way.” The accompanying music is chorus-y and euphonic, creating an otherworldly atmosphere. “Gems”, replete with strings and samples of children laughing, evokes an Edenic association. “Do not tire yourself out,” the voice says, this time occurring as a workout instructor cum psychic adviser, adding, “Your light will shine in the darkest hour.” Speaking as the quintessential introvert, Simz herself concludes “Protect My Energy” by saying, “Total silence is my therapy.” Hook-filled, the track is, perhaps ironically, the most pop-friendly piece on the album.
Simz also spends considerable time highlighting women’s unique challenges and gifts (herself and others). On “Woman”, she offers portraits of women from various parts of the world, all of whom express aplomb and command respect in their own ways (“Yoruba girl tougher than imperial leather”, “Miss Ethiopia can play so jazzy / then sit you down and school you on Selassie”, “Miss India always speaks with her chest”). Cleo Sol offers a sultrily melodic chorus, affirming feminine determination, resilience, and mercurialness (“I love how you go from zero to one hundred”).
“I Love You, I Hate You” opens with a musical flourish reminiscent of Golden-Age Hollywood, segueing into Simz’s diaristic take on her relationship with her father. “My ego won’t fully allow me to say that I miss you / A woman who hasn’t confronted all her daddy issues,” Simz raps. Although, she quickly proceeds to elaborate on the father-daughter bond, suggesting that one’s connection to a parent is circumstantial as well as a biochemical, energetic, and instinctive enmeshment (which renders boundary-making a complex matter). When she says, “Even though I’m angry don’t wanna be disrespectful,” she accepts her ambivalence (and validates others’), how one is constantly adhering to and/or rebelling against one’s familial script.
While Simz uses “Speed” to pay tribute to her hard-won sense of empowerment (“Don’t you know you’re dealing with a boss”), she parts the egoic veil on “Standing Ovation” to ask, “Why the desperate need for an applause?” and “Why the desperate need to be remembered?” her voice framed by a loose mix of synth and string sounds. Simz questions our craving to have a desired self-image reflected to us by our partner, family, and society (and fans!). Success prompts her to ponder how/why the desire for it originated in the first place, an inquiry with psychological, cultural, economic, and legislative implications.
Throughout Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, Little Simz continues to swaggeringly craft her bio, relating how she navigated myriad challenges, never losing sight of her goals. However, she also moves beyond the persona of the braggadocious hip-hop artist, asking questions about the genesis of her (and our) motivations. In this way, she questions capitalism’s primary tenets, casting self-determinism as an incomplete explanation regarding how our lives turn out and who we become. When she proclaims on the closing track, “Miss Understood”, that “there’s a bigger picture God is painting”, she comes full circle, acknowledging a higher plan or order, and humbly expressing her sense of awe that she, like all of us, is part of it.