Today, the emerging genre of electro pop is becoming increasingly popular, and with this new music, of course, comes new artists who attempt to break through the everyone-wants-to-be-famous barricade into stardom.
One band currently crossing the divide, powered by sheer talent, is SHAED, and their first extended play, “MELT,” showcases a nuanced story of being in love, heartbreak and regaining strength.
What Is Electro Pop?
By definition, electro pop is “a type of pop music (modern popular music with a strong beat) produced on electronic instruments such as synthesizers (electronic keyboards)”: in other words, the music style of the decade. After all, you will probably hear an electro pop song if you turn on your local pop radio station.
The distinctiveness of the genre allows for multi-emotion artistry. For instance, playful, popping beats produce a state of excitement, light-heartedness and grandeur, whereas gradual instrumental backdrops lead the listener’s soul into wistfulness.
Dominating the airwaves, electro pop music expresses a wide array of feelings and can always provide a song to match your mood, but SHAED specializes in concocting musically coherent mood swings.
Who Is SHAED?
The District of Columbia-native group consists of three members: Chelsea Lee, who is the lead vocalist, and twins Spencer and Max Ernst, vocalists and producers. Lee and the Ernst twins met in high school where they connected over a common interest: making music. What once began as a group of friends and a basement karaoke session eventually became SHAED.
After a period of post-graduation experimentation with solo acts and projects, Lee and the Ernst brothers came back together to start their band. Now, they all live together in a modest suburban house, record music in their in-home studio and Chelsea and Spencer are married.
In an interview with Bullet Media, the members explained that SHAED (pronounced “shade”) actually derives from a novel by Patrick Rothfuss, called “Name of the Wind.”
“We were looking through [the novel], and we saw SHAED, which is actually a cloak woven by a goddess,” Lee said. “It’s woven out of shadow, so this was a name we loved.”
The name has further stylistic symmetry for the band: “Because they’re twins, everything has to be very even, very symmetrical, and I think that was one of the main reasons why we picked it,” she said.
What’s more, the combination of the fantasy-novel-inspired word choice and the symmetry of the name spelled out in all caps represents the production of their music.
“MELT”: The EP
After releasing several singles, such as “Just Wanna See” (2016), “Lonesome” (2017) and “Too Much,” as well as signing with independent record label Photo Finish Records, the group’s first extended play record, “MELT,” finally hit the market last September. The EP is composed of seven tracks: “You Got Me Like,” “Trampoline,” “Melt,” “Wish I,” “Keep Calling,” “Silver Knife” and “Inside a Dream.”
The first track, “You Got Me Like,” really hits the ground running. A quick falsetto hit introduces the fast-paced, soulful and nostalgic love song about wanting to eternally stay young and in love.
The second track, “Trampoline,” is likewise very soulful, using metaphors and personification to illustrate the sovereignty of love over hardship. “Wait if I’m on fire / How am I so deep in love? / When I dream of dying / I never feel so loved,” Lee sings in the chorus.
Just as the first track begins with a quick falsetto, “Trampoline” ends with one. But is Lee just trying to show off her impressive vocal range? Definitely not. The parallelism between the beginning and end of the two tracks reflects the beginning and end of life’s high point, marking the end of a happy era.
“Melt,” in contrast to its preceding tracks, uses seemingly panicky production and instrumentals to convey a mood of distress. Lee uses powerful vocals to express the agony she felt when under creative control as a burgeoning musician.
“Wait / Now you’re dressing me in chains/ Calling every move I make / Now you’re begging me to smile, but I can’t fake / Thought the point was to create / I can barely feel myself / Like I’m frozen in the ice / Wish I could melt,” she sings.
The beginning of the next track, “Wish I,” mimics the noise you would hear waking up in the grass outside after a storm: a dreary breeze, wind chimes and gentle, blurry, slow-developing vocals. The only lyrics in this short track are “Wish I could melt,” further portraying the hit-rock-bottom feeling from the track.
“Wish I” is followed by “Keep Calling” and “Silver Knife,” which consecutively articulate the recovery of the human heart after a period of heartbreak. The lyrics in both songs contain progressive, self-establishing diction to illustrate the process of regaining composure. “Silver Knife” takes you back in time with its obvious alt ’80s influence, and the upbeat funk describes how the EP persona’s strength has been recaptured.
Finally, “Inside a Dream,” another short track lasting one minute and 17 seconds, addresses the complete resolution of the EP’s story.
“I stepped in the pretty ole world / And the world was just for me / I can’t, I can’t / Get away so easily,” Lee see sings. Despite its hardships, she implies, life is still beautiful and ultimately worth living.
The artistic order of the tracks in downright impeccable; there is a clear exposition (tracks one and two), rising action (track three), climax (track four), falling action (tracks five and six) and resolution (track seven). Furthermore, the development of the persona behind each lyric is authentic and relatable — life’s lows are inevitable, but they are also followed by highs. SHAED reminds us of life’s sublime, rollercoaster nature in their EP “MELT.”
What to Expect Next from SHAED
SHAED’s clear creativity caught the attention of Apple in late 2018 when the company incorporated “Trampoline” into their MacBook Air commercial. Since that exposure, SHAED has grown to over 16,000 Instagram followers, over 28,000 Spotify followers and nearly 5 million monthly listeners. In addition, half of the shows on their current tour are completely sold out, and more shows are expected to sell out as the tour continues.
They’ve official broken into the pop music industry, and you can expect more authenticity, more artistic lyricism and, of course, more concerts. But for now, sit tight, grab your tissues, put on your headphones and melt into SHAED’s dreamy, synth pop style.
To stay up to date on music and shows, check out the band’s website here.