Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Hana Vu revels in Romanticism's hooks


Release date: 03 May 2024
Hana vu Romanticism cover
02 May 2024, 09:00 Written by John Amen

With her new album, Romanticism, Hana Vu elaborates on her 2021 LP, Public Storage.

Blending operatic theatricality and a dark-pop MO, her voice is more resonant than ever, whether she practices restraint or leaps into uninhibited fury. Posing philosophic questions and venting angst, Vu revels in hooks that unfold like a humid July evening filled with fireflies.

Romanticism, like Public Storage, unfurls amidst striking paradoxes. On “Hammer”, for instance, Vu sounds like someone prematurely burdened with chronic fatigue. “And there is no answer / but I want one anyway”, Vu laments. For pop, there’s a sense of remove and self-marginalization here that’s unusual. And yet, Vu’s melodic lines shimmer, culminating with a cathartic chorus that would get a toothy grin from PJ Harvey, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and Soccer Mommy alike. This is elemental pop infused with PTSD, a vanilla shake laced with a thimbleful of battery acid.

“Alone” is thickly textured, undergirded by a strummy guitar. Vu’s voice and melody drip with happy-morning energy, while her lyrics evoke the endless hours of a lonely night (“between my teeth there’s a bullet hole”, “all the world’s a game I’ve had enough”). Granted, Vu didn’t invent tragi-pop (she wouldn’t deny her numerous progenitors, from Cat Power to Julien Baker); however, her airy melodicism and meme-friendly lyrics, coupled with her technically grounded yet mercurial voice, make for a signature presence.

“I scream so loud / because I don’t exist no more”, Vu proclaims on “22”, painting a portrait of someone in spiritual and psychological limbo. Indigo de Souza could’ve penned this song, perhaps, though her take would forefront a more brooding anger. Olivia Rodrigo might’ve envisioned a track like this, though she would’ve built it around more suburban details. With Vu, however, we get undiluted betweenness, disorientation, even narcotization; and yet, the song soars, as if carried by a celestial updraft.

As the album nears completion, Vu offers “I Draw a Heart”, which opens with a mock-sentimental take on young love but ends with images of heartache and self-destructiveness (“I lay passed out in the arbor”). The album concludes with “Love”, which explores self-doubt as much as confusing attraction, dejection as much as desire, and resignation as much as acceptance.

With Romanticism, Vu exceeds the notable tensions of Public Storage – at once confessional and deflective, self-possessed and dissociative, direct and elusive. Vu is the daughter of TikTok radio and the goth poem, Trump-era irreverence and identity fluidity. She speaks to the impact of conditioning and the specter of meaninglessness. That said, Vu is not a complete nihilist; hope lingers like a subliminal, subtextual presence. Vu, or at least her persona, stands at the intersection of despair and enlightenment.

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