?te: A Bedroom of One's Own Album Review

BY Cai Ing /

?te (pronounced as "white") is relatively new on the scene but she's making waves that could only be attributed to the electrifying combination of her mysterious persona, sultry vocals, and groovy yet relaxing beats. Much like how Sia is known for (previously) hiding the top half of her face behind a heavy curtain of fringe bangs, ?te has also chosen to keep her identity a secret by always appearing with a hat and sunglasses -- so that the focus will remain on her music rather than her appearance.

Lo-fi music itself has increased in popularity in more recent years (as evidenced by the countless memes about ChilledCow's "lofi hip-hop radio / beats to relax/study to"), undoubtedly thanks to its ability to make an atmosphere more calm and relaxed. ?te's songs are capable of doing just that as she blends R&B, hip-hop, and jazz, and then elevates them with her entrancing voice. Although she only started releasing music last year, her debut album A Bedroom of One's Own that was released this July reflects the work of a polished artist that could easily be mistaken as one who's been in the industry for much longer.

For just a little over half an hour, ?te invites the listener into her room and closes the door, effectively shutting out the rest of the world for a short but sweet intermission from life.

The tracklist is as follows:

  1. Who's Afraid of ?te (Intro)
  2. Santé
  3. Baby Cakes
  4. Shadow
  5. Cazzo
  6. Insomnia
  7. Seh Ah Seh
  8. You Say Goodbye Easily
  9. En Mi Cuarto
  10. Lady First ft. ILL MO
  11. Lonely Together (Outro)

The album opens with a ?te reciting a brief passage by the British writer Virginia Woolf over a beat composed by Tower da Funkmasta -- one that brings Nujabes' works to mind. It is fitting, considering that the title of the album is a reference to Woolf's extended essay, A Room of One's Own. In the following track, "Santé", ?te begins to make it evident to the listener just how smoothly and effortlessly she can flow between singing in English and Mandarin. She croons over someone who is no longer around as she asks for them to love her again for old times' sake, and then proposes a toast to celebrate and "enjoy the moment, enjoy the pain" in a breathy, mesmerizing voice.

Lyrically, it is the complete opposite for the next track, "Baby Cakes". It's a sweet love song with a more prominent bassline about being in a long-distance relationship; ?te sings about only having eyes for her partner and that she worries they won't be able to hear how much she is longing for them, through the phone. Based on the verses alone it could pass as a sugary sweet pop tune about puppy love, but it is ?te's husky vocals and the beat behind it that gives it a more mature sound and the potential to be more relatable to an older audience.

In "Shadow", things take a much heavier tone despite the gospel-like intro, with verses in English and Hokkien making references to family issues with abuse resulting from alcoholism. The chorus implies that the person who ?te is singing from the perspective of, is in the habit of recoiling into a shadow and away from others, possibly because of their past.

"Cazzo" is arguably ?te's most popular track, and it's not without reason. ?te's vocals are sensual as she sings about an emotional rollercoaster in the form of a passionate one night stand: "dive in because I'm drowning / in thrashing waves of ecstasy". It's jazzy and intimate, to say the least. "Seh Ah Seh" is smooth and catchy (and one of the most memorable songs on the album), as ?te encourages the listener to walk away from trying to make people love them, as well as from everything and everyone who annoys them. At the core of it, it is a reminder to live for oneself and avoid those who are anything less than authentic themselves.

?te allows the listener to see a heartbroken side of her in the ballad "You Say Goodbye Easily" as she sings about a lover who used to be head over heels for her but has now grown distant. Having to cope with the disappointment of being told continuous excuses from a partner who has lost interest is something that many people can relate to, and that includes making the difficult decision of cutting ties with them for your own sake. It's not a pleasant experience to have but ?te's voice is soothing nonetheless, even when displaying emotional distress. Meanwhile, "En Mi Cuarto" follows her in the aftermath of a breakup (as she stays home alone, gets tipsy, and turns up the music) over a captivatingly dizzy rhythm that is heavily and unsurprisingly influenced by Spanish flamenco music.

?te's musical inspirations are not difficult to point out (she even shouts out 6 of them in "Insomnia": Aretha Franklin, Billie Eilish, Chaka Khan, Duffy, Ella Fitzgerald, and Fergie) but she is capable of drawing inspiration from various different sources and transforming it into a refreshing sound of her own. Her lyrics are clear and honest reflections of genuine emotion - it's perfect for an album with a title like A Bedroom of One's Own.

A Bedroom of One's Own is available various platforms, including: YouTube (on her record label Chyna House Digital's channel), Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Tidal.

?te can be found on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.

BY Cai Ing /
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