Alternative R&B artist SunRhé, like many songwriters, does not shy away from emoting about life’s complicated, intimate moments in her music. But on Lavender, out Aug. 10, she does recognize one thing plenty of other artists skim over: Love is a wide-ranging emotion.
“I wanted it to be a very romantic project,” she said. “The content of the songs is basically exploring different forms of love. There’s discussion of self love, the initial attraction that comes with having a crush on somebody, that natural instinctive feeling, then there’s deep romantic love, too.”
The most striking aspect of Lavender is just how all-encompassing it feels when describing love. Classic themes of exuberance, intimacy and compassion are present throughout, but SunRhé doesn’t avoid the fact that love is personal. “This is a more self-aware reflection of my experiences with love,” she said.
Tunes like “ElevateU” are sparse and sweet, bolstered by SunRhé’s strong vocals and comforting lyrics. “If you say you’re scared, hide/ I know just the remedy/ I could be the gateway to illuminate you/ don’t be afraid of me/ let your inhibitions free,” she sings.
On the swooning R&B track “Something Like Lavender” SunRhé uses poetic lyrics to describe attraction. “Your turn of phrase is soothing me/ oh Lord, I adore/ I just need you to surround me/ wanderlust into a new place/ I’m just riding in my own waves/ can’t trust how I want to behave/ trying to escape will take much persuasion,” she sings.
The instrumentals on Lavender are a mixture of alternative R&B and pop music, and frequently underscore the meaning behind SunRhé’s words. Songs like the trippy, lustful “Trance” and the stuttering “LUH freestyle” let SunRhé embrace her more experimental tendencies as a songwriter.
In addition to the left field tones on Lavender, SunRhé dedicates a few tracks to progressive pop. “DMT (Dance/Movement/Therapy)” is a grooving turn for the LP that embraces funky keys and pop hooks.
“SpaceJam Outro” mixes an eerie melody from plucked strings with abstract and almost exotic sounds. “I think I find the most peace in stillness,” she said in a closing spoken word verse. “Sometimes too much attention or too much energy in outward directions gives me anxiety, you know? Sometimes what I need is a disconnection to find my way back to center, peaceful perception.”
But, love isn’t just about one person’s relationship with another. Self-love and the personal journey many people take to really care for themselves is a big theme for Lavender. SunRhé began to explore many of these themes after combatting her own “existential crisis.”
“I had a problem loving myself, not just in a literal way, but also feeling free enough to explore my creative side and really fall in love with things that I am passionate about,” she said.
Her apprehension over where to take her creative expression caused SunRhé to overanalyze her self-worth and how she manages her own self-value. Through travel and falling back on the friends and family that she has loving relationships with, SunRhé was able to reexamine her definition of love, she said.
“Fresh Air,” the LP’s climactic highlight, exemplifies everything great about Lavender. SunRhé rhythmically sings both abstract lines and bright details, while a smooth and calming melody puts the focus on her words.
“In the next second, we’re in another moment/ all is as it should be and I control it/ now’s the time for pressure, heart as my weapon/ presence is inevitable and reckless,” she sings.
While Lavender is her first full project, SunRhé has built some momentum thanks to a feature on Matt Monday’s single “Had a Thing,” shoutouts from big hip-hop names like Jah Jr. and DJ Scrib and a brief appearance at hip-hop festival Cultura in 2019. According to her, the support she’s received already is one of the major forms of love that she references on the LP.
“There’s something very humbling about people supporting you even when you’re kind of weary about your own path,” she said. “It’s almost surreal knowing that people believe in me even in moments where I didn’t believe in myself.”