Have you ever heard an album that was NOT their first album, but it felt like one? By first album, I’m not talking about quality of music or quality surrounding their musical prowess or anything, but I mean “first album” as in “the album that introduces everything the artist is about”. By “first album,” I mean “The Idiot’s Guide to [insert artist here].” Cats From Venus, Maya’s third full length album, feels like this.
Those who Maya Benton on her socials will likely pick up the following traits: she is unapologetically sexual (going so far as to call herself a “regal slut”), she commands the room that she steps in and performs in, and she loves the mess out of her black cats. Cats From Venus is dedicated to Uti, a black cat who had died during the pandemic, and through this album, Maya exposes to you, from start to finish, her inner black cat. (Grow up, reader!)
On Venus, Maya blends funk, R&B, and a bit of goth to build a world in which she is a gracious queen who could bear her teeth if she so chooses. But before you get to that, Maya eases you into the vibes with the funky and jubilant “I Believe in Magic (Intro).”You almost feel like bouncing your feet when you walk before Maya turns the funky atmosphere to that of a sweaty nightclub for “You Should Be Dancing.” Bouncing drums and crimson red synths can both mesmerize or get your feet shuffling out of nowhere. Just know the vibes doesn’t stop there as “Staying Alive” (not a Bee Gees cover) elevates the vibe with blaring synth brass stabs and her voice offering a blend of the best impressive R&B/soul singer you know (take your pick) and Siouxsie Sioux (passionate and visceral enough to cut you to the core as well as it could soothe, almost operatic).
Maya’s talent lies in more than just her ability to be assertive, playful, and horny each in the snap of her fingers, but to use such as a means to deliver a believable message. Whether the message is to not expect niceties because she is a woman (“I Don’t Have to Be Nice”), to never let life crush you to the point where you feel no inspiration to go on (“Live Again”) or even to refrain from standing her up on the dancefloor (the eviscerating tune of sensual desperation and frustration “Disco Bill”), you feel like YOU are who she is directly singing to.
The catchy ender “Have a Nice Day” brings things back to earth as Maya declares dismissal on hateful people over a big-band beat, and closes what may be an album that is dedicated to a late cat, but carries the atmosphere like a hungry panther or jaguar. Where previous albums (Writing My Life and Darker) have built up the atmosphere around Maya Songbird, Cats From Venus feels like the grand opening of a world to get lost in and to meet the very queen who runs it.