Petite Meller’s debut album Lil Empire, Beyoncé-d onto our plates just over a week ago, isn’t perfect, but there are moments of perfection.
The Parisian popstar/philosophy student is garbed-up like an avant-garde Madeline with china doll makeup – she's striking for sure and the videos from A.T.Mann and Napoleon Habeica have helped Meller build a bold visual identity, but peel back the outer layer and Meller offers a huge amount of depth.
Lil Empire is a fascinating exploration of melody, with Meller getting the party started from beat one. Her sound is dangerously catchy, and there are hairbrush-karaoke moments aplenty, with parasitic hooks burrowing deep into your brain. It's mostly built from tracks we've already digested - “Backpack”, “Baby Love”, “Barbaric”, “Lil' Love”, “Milk Bath”, and “The Flute” are all familiar favs. Fresh noises in “Argentina” and “America” are welcome additions - but pared-back cut “Grace” kills the buzz.
Rocket-fuelled choruses, jerky funk keys, African-inspired percussion, house breakdowns, Mongolian flute solos... all the elements of Meller's music work in harmony to make you feel lots and move more, even though on paper they might not seem like they'd work at all. Lil Empire can lift you up in a vortex of triumph or it can smash you back to Earth with heart-stopping sincerity.
Meller's told us Lil Empire looks at the “absurdity of life, the tacky, the terror, the pain and the joyful euphoric feeling from music which saves us” and that it's “about [her] journey into my past through dreams”. Meller says she's inspired by jouissance, classic jazz, and Paul Simon's Graceland. Her travels have clearly had an impact too. The result is a varied and vibrant collection that'll sweep you off your feet.
Lil Empire is often outrageous house-slash-pop full of glitter and pomp, but under the skin there's a lot to devour. Much like Meller herself, look beyond the glitz and you'll be fascinated.