Empress Of is the stage name for Lorely Rodriguez, a Brooklyn-based, Honduran-American singer, songwriter, and producer. “Water Water” is the first single off her debut full-length album, “Me.” She wrote it in seclusion, spending five months in a small town in Mexico at a friend’s house. Her setting comes through strongly on this track.
In the song she talks about the privilege of potable water, of living in a place where drinkable water is used for showers, baths, watering the yard, and rinsing dirty dishes. I’m not sure it’s calling anyone out for this. Her words feel more like an examination of how one place can be so different from another. “Water, water is a privilege/ Just like kids who go to college/ There’s a ring around your mouth now/ Where you used to whisper knowledge.”
As far as musicality goes, in this one there’s a chorus with no words, which is one of my favorite songwriter tricks. Throw in some hooky vocals over a cool beat, and you got yourself a chorus. In an even bolder move, Rodriguez kicks the song off with this wordless chorus, heavy effects layered over her vocals and a thick synth sound harmonizing with her half note ha’s.
Later when the chorus runs twice in a row, the song reaches its full dance anthem potential. It’s crazy. This song and, really, the whole album come across as very strange and experimental but ultra-danceable too. I’m into that unique combination of sensibilities. Pitchfork described this album as “Björk releasing her inner Beyoncé” (source). That description sounds like an odd combination, but it works. Lately, all I’ve wanted to listen to are pop songs I can move my body to. This track gives me what I want and more because it pushes me to accept the weird and bizarre.
If you enjoy “Water Water,” try “To Get By” and “Kitty Kat” by Empress Of. You’ll see her stretch her vocals a lot more dramatically in those two numbers.