I fell in love with Lexie Liu‘s music when I first heard her 2030 EP. There’s this trance-like quality to her rapping and singing that gives her performance a confident magnetism, despite her monotone delivery. Songs like “Nada” and “Hat Trick” are perfect representations of her strengths – drenched in autotune, Lexie’s melodies are sharp and could rival some of Travis Scott’s best performances.
Her follow-up album – Meta Ego improved upon these qualities. Throughout the tracklist, there was a reduced reliance on vocal effects and an emphasis on Lexie’s natural performances and penchant for catchy hooks/choruses. Where 2030 was heavy on psychedelic electronic beats, Meta Ego went headfirst into melodic trap and contemporary rap production. A choice that paid off as the album served as proof of her potential as a mainstream superstar.
2 years later, her latest release GONE GOLD is another sonic departure from her previous work. Written and produced by Lexie herself, the EP dabbles in pop and dance tropes that pair well with her melodic performances. However, the production also serves as the project’s biggest shortcoming.
Lead single “有吗炒面 ALGTR” is an electronic pop-rock track that’s much more upbeat than anything that she’s done before. It eerily reminds me of Rich Brian and Chung Ha’s “These Nights” for the 88rising’s HITC II though. As like that song, “ALGTR” feels like an attempt to crossover into a more mainstream sound while sacrificing Lexie’s strengths to get there. Her pitched up vocals work well with the beat (and the chorus is pretty great too) but loses the suave aesthetic that defined her career up to this point.
The rest of the EP ditches this sound in favour of dance music-inspired production – more specifically house music. “SHADOW”, “香芋的错觉 CAROUSEL”, “猪猪捶 CHU CHU” and “了 L” all serve as proof of Lexie looking to shed expectations of her being ‘just’ a rapper. Her singing on each song proves that she has much more range than her lackluster K/DA appearance would lead you to believe. Furthermore, her ability at crafting memorable hooks and melodies are made even more evident, given the more minimalist lyricism that these tracks require.
However, like “ALGTR”, the production attempts to wrestle the spotlight away from Lexie – an artist who I felt has always benefited from being the central element of her music. Despite my praises for her vocals, she still isn’t the most captivating singer out there. It’s catchy but the problem here is that the beats are doing the heavy lifting here, leaving Lexie as a complementary element. It makes the EP feel like an outlier in her discography so far, like an experimentation in a new genre that doesn’t represent the artistry that she’s been showing us till now.
The final two tracks of the EP once again take a genre detour. “巴别塔的猫 A BABEL CAT” is an R&B track that is the most reminiscent of her early material. Though with only a verse and a chorus, it ultimately feels like a throwaway interlude even with Lexie’s hauntingly beautiful performance. “GO PSYCHOTIC (OUTRO)” on the other hand just leaves me confused.
It reuses the beat drop and bridge of “ALGTR” but remixes it into an EDM style instrumental track that never really goes anywhere. There’s no climax or progression to it, almost like a never ending car ride down a neon lit street. There are some changes added in – synth keys and electronic chimes, but it just never amounts to anything as the song just comes to an end and the EP comes to an abrupt halt.
GONE GOLD is ambitious in its attempt to try something new and for what it’s worth, it largely succeeded. Each of its dance music cuts are extremely fun and catchy. They showed a new side to Lexie Liu that solidifies her talent to take things up as a pop star if she chooses to.
However, the loss of charm in performances harm the EP more than anything. There was a uniqueness that I loved in her previous projects, despite their rough qualities. GONE GOLD is polished and ready-made for mainstream dominance, and because of that it makes the EP feel very short-sighted in its scope.