It’s been eleven years since experimental pop producer Meljoann released her first and only album so far in ‘Squick’. It captivated the alt-pop sensibilities of thousands across both Ireland and the UK and marked Meljoann as one of the pops most intriguing additions.
With tracks that take on topics such as identity, relationships and gender under capitalism with a comic and surreal gaze; her sound is layered and rich, with shimmering soulful vocals surrounded by industrial beats, synths and noisy textural detail.
Currently based in Brighton; Meljoann has just released her follow-up to ‘Squick’. Sonically, 'HR' jumps between decades, from early 2000’s pop with tracks such as O Supervisor to '90s R'n'B-infused electronica (I Quit), with elements of '80s, Prince-inspired pop (Consumer) and hard-edged industrial rock (Business Card) scattered throughout.
The lyrics to the album, vivid in detail, with breathtaking imagery, depict an artist examining their relationship to consumerism and gives voice to the collective delusion that we will one day feel comfortable and secure, and on that day we will choose to change the system from the inside.
On the eve of the album’s release, Meljoann sat down with Goldenplec to run through ‘HR’ track-by-track and explain some of the deeper themes behind the album.
Assfuck the Boss
The album opens with the bombastic, bass-heavy sounds of Assfuck The Boss. Meljoann’s vocals jump in and out of the track as it purrs into life towards the chorus. Towards the final third, the track grows more haunting and uncertain. It feels like a trap, luring you in one bar at a time, pulling you closer until it finds itself embedded deep into your subconscious.
“Assfuck the Boss is about the ‘stockholm syndrome’ of the employed.” Meljoann explains of the symbolism behind the album opener. “The narrator’s delusions show how ideas inherited from hierarchical organisation of society infect how we see sex.”
One of the singles ahead of the album’s release was Company Retreat which was accompanied by a music video with “dystopian-femme social Darwinist vibes,” in the artist’s own words; Company Retreat is an '80s disco-inspired romp and sets the album ablaze.
“It’s a surreal take on the distorting influence of hyper-competitive capitalism on our relationships,” Meljoan adds of the track.
Following Company Retreat is another single released in advance of the album, O Supervisor. “This one imagines impossible ways to escape the claws of Bosses,” Meljoann replies when asked of the track.
“This song uses video game tropes and post-colonial, post-Marxist arguments to win the level”.
“O Supervisor is a hopeful song about smashing crappy power structures.” she tweeted upon the singles release last year, and while hopeful isn’t the way many would describe it; it brings with it a sense of vibrancy and '80s nostalgia to make it stand out among the pack.
“Trophy Wife is about social darwinism, and the characters we play in its thrall,” explains Meljoann. “We split ourselves in two: a bitter breadwinner, and a trophy wife”.
The track subverts the trope of the modern woman in a sardonic show of power. “For me it’s about how living under capitalism distorts personality and it splits us in two into a breadwinner who’s the hardened shell of a person.”
“I used the language of gendered roles within capitalism, so traditionally the male roles have the power and the female roles need to find ways to grab some essence of control.”
“It’s a dreamy manifesto that describes freeing yourself from the position of ‘eternal secretary,” Meljoann states of Personal Assistant, which was originally released as a single in 2017.
One of the visual highlights of the album’s collection of music videos, Business Card is an in-depth examination of white supremacy’s unconvincing attempt at re-branding.
“The song aims to make explicit what we are supposed to read between the lines,” Meljoann elaborates. “our complicity in dog-whistle politics: pitch shifted so we can hear it all”.
One of the newer tracks from the album, Consumer deals with feeling guiltily dulled and satiated by the pleasures of consumerism.
“It may seem frothy and sweet, but it’s got a sinister undercurrent,” Meljoann says of Consumer; one of the many Prince-inspired pop tracks from the collection. Funky to the extreme; it’s a track perfectly suited to a late night festival atmosphere.
Over-time is a disco-inspired anthem to capitalism’s choke-hold on life, and our perverse willingness to offer up time means we don’t have to further our employers’ gains. It’s synth-driven melody is captivating, and offers a direct contrast to an otherwise quite sombre topic.
“It’s about the emotional labour we do, under gendered systems of control that thrive in the workplace,” Meljoann notes. “It tells the story of a woman alienated from her own survival instincts, who is subjugated by a predatory boss<
One of the latter singles released from the album ahead of its release; Hoard is composed as a duet across the corporate line, as the two opposing stances of minimum wage employee and corporate boss are locked in an ideological battle.
The penultimate track of ‘HR’, I Quit is a break-up ballad, except the person you’re breaking up with is capitalism itself.
“It’s a last-nerve, spent, frazzled torch song; intended for use at your workplace’s karaoke,” Meljoann recalls of the track’s themes. The Whitney Houston-inspired soulful number details giving up the day job while showing off superb vocals and a razor sharp wit.
The album’s final number, Ventilation Shaft is an artist's ambient farewell to those who came on the album's journey. The singer daydreams about an escape from capitalism’s stranglehold: a happy-ending fairytale that will never come true.
It’s a beautiful note on which to end the record; which leaves the listener with both questions to ask and themes to uncover. It reminds everyone what makes Meljoann’s work so special: you never know what you might hear but also what you may learn.