Alice Phoebe Lou had me at “She.” She caught my ear at the end of last summer, and was quickly anchored into my permanent collection of artists whom I play on endless loops to make long bike rides through the city a little more enjoyable, her light and fierce vocals scattered over my summer memories.
I stumbled upon Lou on one of those YouTube rabbit holes that sometimes leads nowhere, not realizing then that the simple video for “She,” a montage of Lou playing live at various venues, would stoke a new obsession, filling the essence of silence in my August haze. The song starts out with a long echo chamber like resonance of the word “She” that stretches through a variation of tonalities. That first word had me hooked.
As the song crescendos, the lyrics go on to describe a young girl looking for a place in a world that seems to be falling apart, and having a sense of needing to escape. The “She” Lou refers to is on a journey, leaving society and fear behind to find herself on the other side of the fence in search of a better world. Most of Lou’s work focuses on the idea of breaking away from societal molds; her lyrics ponder the effects our societal habits have on the Earth, the individual, and the creative and fierce spirit we all have inside us, but often forget to fuel.
Lou herself has spent her creative career fighting these structures she so often denounces in her music. Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Lou came up on the outskirts of the music industry, busking around Berlin after graduating high school. She found her voice on the streets and her followers in city squares, and though she’s found a larger audience since, with offers from major labels, acclaimed SXSW performances, and sold-out shows across Europe, she has continued giving street performances and independently released two EPs and two full length albums.
Lou hasn’t been held back by her decision to maintain her presence as a fiercely independent artist. The song “She” was featured in Bombshell, a documentary about Hollywood starlet and genius inventor Hedy Lamarr. Because of its inclusion in the film, it was shortlisted for an Academy Award in December; though it didn’t make the final cut for nominations, the announcement was followed by the news that Lou would be re-releasing the song with a new video.
Her second video rendition of “She,” directed by photographer and filmmaker Natalia Bazina, was released on February 23rd. Lou says of the video that “the repetitive lyrics have a sense of powerful femininity behind them, inspired by women who go against the prescribed boundaries and pave the way for other women to be empowered and realize their strengths.”
The video is as ethereal as the song itself and sets bodies in a pool swimming amongst a dark black background, their forms seemingly moving in space. The element of water keeps the song alive with feminine references, and the contrasted bodies build up a sense of the depth, darkness, and light between the contours of the female form. The video is a delicate glimpse into yet another version of the female gaze, a beautifully woven tapestry of images that ignite sensations of freedom, fear, entrapment, struggle, and breaking free.
Lou’s trajectory into music has been a surprising one. As more of what she offers in her musical field comes to life, I feel we will continue to have her passionate music be the backdrop for our ordinary existence.