-Imani Coppola – Demos from the Void
What separates Imani Coppola from other singer-songwriters is her ability to turn depressive realities into something worth laughing about. This might not be her intention, but whether it be about the state of today’s politics or a less-than-satisfactory love life, Imani always does her best to entertain us through a brutal honesty. It’s like watching Comedy Central stand-ups and IFC sitcoms. Just picture her hosting the Daily Show or doing the Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live, and she’d kill it on charisma alone. Demos from the Void, her new project, answers one question: what happens when you just don’t feel like laughing anymore? This isn’t to say she won’t try to keep it light, but Demos from the Void is the album where she openly addresses the mess in her life and turns it into something relatable.
For those who have kept up with Imani, suffering from mental illness hasn’t been a new topic. Even on her first project, Chupacabra, she addresses suffering from depression, but due to her youth, she approaches it with hope of eventually overcoming it all. Throughout the years, music has been a salve for her and those who listen. When the lyrics are joined with perfect vintage soul or other genre-blending production, topics are covered with a nonchalant demeanor. Or so it seems. But no pitch-perfect production could ever hide the arrow-direct nakedness of “Cold Front”, a song about how suffering mental illness can affect your relationships, how losing people who loved you is common to the point of apathy. What helps Demos go down easier is also another one of Imani’s songwriting powers: complete self-awareness.
She, like many others who struggle like her, hope for a less messy way of navigating such an experience. But if the heart-wrenching tune “The Void” or the love song “Stumbling” are any indication, it isn’t always the case. Most songwriters would attempt such honesty and fall victim to the act of saving face with a more “it’s not me, it’s you” mentality. Hell, “Love Hates Me” shows she is well aware of how suffering will affect the ones she wants to fall in love with. “I will strangle a man in a rage, and make him prove that he deserves to breathe/make him beg for all eternity” suggests sadism (I joked to Imani once that the song sounds like a dominatrix dream), but illustrates in her own darkly humorous way the extremes her mind can go. This isn’t to say that she doesn’t still have romantic dreams.”Drive” is one of the album’s most tender love songs, where she sings about how much a simple embrace can ease a troubled mind.
Sometimes, Imani doesn’t have to speak about anything personal. “Shadow Black” is an impressionist description of depression using classical instrumentation and a descriptive portrait. It’s not so much about what happens, but more about abstract descriptions of said depression.
If you still want a piece of that unintentional bust-out funny humor, Imani delivers directly with the humanistic piano ballad “Everyone”. “Everyone” demonstrates another superpower Imani has: the ability to address universal struggles without it sounding preachy or pretentious. It sounds like it came from a trusted longtime friend. You won’t hear any Top 10 worldly songs address the treatability of chlamydia, but Imani’s knack for timing helps to cheer up those who feel like they are constantly losing at life in some way. It would be ideal as a closer, but more understandably, “Keep it Coming”, an ode to supportive community through the family and friends that choose to remain, takes the spot instead.
Coppola could have just made a woe-is-me emo record and called it a day. She would have been well within her rights. But Coppola decided to addresses the topic of mental illness with more finesse and empathy for her and those in her position. In that, Imani reveals another power: fearlessness.
On her YouTube account, Imani has a video where she goes from wanting to start a dance party to descending into an emotional tirade against her fanbase. As frightening as it may be, especially for an artist, it remains as a choice portrait of her struggles, even as a longtime multidisciplinary artist. And this is why it doesn’t seem enough to say that Demos is her bravest and most emotionally rewarding, but as a whole, Imani Coppola is one of the bravest singer-songwriters around.
Now about that Comedy Central stand-up comedy series…