There’s only so much sad music you can listen to before catharsis ends and emotional perpetuation begins. Music that empowers you to overcome might be your best resolution. “Solutions” is the latest work of singer and songwriter K.Flay, known for her bold and genuine blend of hip-hop, indie rock and electronic. Her 2017 release “Everywhere is Somewhere” received a Grammy nomination and catapulted her into the mainstream, setting high expectations for this 2019 release.
“Solutions” kicks off with “I Like Myself (Most of The Time),” a humanizing song about self-love and coming to terms with personal imperfections. The upbeat, positive outlook K.Flay takes shows she’s evolved past the dark tone of her earlier work.
“I just wanted to hear songs that made me feel kind of happy,” she said. The content of her lyrics reflects that tone: “Rather than counting my curses I try to stay positive.”
As the listener coasts through the remainder of the 10-track album, they’ll likely continue to feel a sense of optimism. “Solutions” is made up of a hybrid of alternative rock and electro-pop genres, resulting in a sound reminiscent of 2010 hit radio material.
True to the album title, and the lyrics in the first track, it’s an album about finding solutions — more specifically, an album about communicating honestly, cultivating healthy relationships and combatting complacency. It’s music for anyone facing endings and new beginnings, for anyone seeking a new perspective.
While the tracks share common themes, they contemplate a variety of challenges. K.Flay grapples with the relationships she has with her family, friends, and lovers in songs “DNA,” “Sister” and “Bad Vibes.” In “This Baby Don’t Cry” and “Not in California,” she also examines the relationship she has with her inner self and the environment that surrounds her.
K.Flay has evolved enormously since the release of her first EP in 2010. Earlier EPs and albums, like 2012 release “Eyes Shut,” were much more temperamental and rap heavy. In her 2014 release “Life as a Dog,” K.Flay stayed true to this sound, and proved her knack for sharply written lyrics that included a strong sense of self-awareness. The album was a raw and meditative reflection on a tumultuous point in her life.
But three years later, when she released “Everywhere is Somewhere,” it became clear that K.Flay was shifting away from hip-hop in favor of pop. The album still contained the edgy tones that were once her staple, but, for the first time, her music was written to be accessible to mainstream interests. “Solutions” continues to show a movement away from cynicism, making it the first album that can be described as euphoric.
Through it all, K.Flay remains just as introspective. Yet the contrast between “Life as a Dog” and “Solutions” shows a transformation in her attitude toward life’s challenges. In the earlier album, she reveals a resentment toward her father during the song “Get It Right,” when she sings, “Wanna turn back the clock, tell my father to be stronger.”
Seven years later in “Solutions,” she references this resentment: “I know that you thought that you f—ked up / cause’ I used to too” then goes on to thank her father for contributing to the person she is today, playing into the album’s themes of forgiveness and recovery.
Another point of heavy focus in past releases were breakups and turbulent relationships. A plethora of songs, including “Time For You,” “You Felt Right” and “Blood in The Cut,” are about how toxic relationships impacted her. Her 2019 release “Nervous” follows these tracks.
While in line with the hopeful themes of other songs in “Solutions,” “Nervous” also reflects K.Flay’s reluctance to fall in love and possibly get hurt all over again. The emotional chorus makes the song a pop playlist-must, while brutally honest verses, such as “feels strange to care” and “the distance kept me safe,” appeal to those facing summer heartbreak and ultimately work to serve a larger statement about the importance of vulnerability and taking chances.
“Solutions” isn’t just about cultivating healthy approaches to relationships with people. “Not in California” starts a conversation about the state of the environment and what might happen in the case a solution is not reached. It’s a song borne out of the fear that “we will choose numbness over action.” K.Flay envisions a world where the environment is destroyed, while at the same time, pointing out the real changes in the world that surrounds her.
She uses the song title, with an ode to “The Wizard of Oz,” to highlight her alienation. The lyrics reveal that the California she once knew no longer exists and neither does the person she was before. Her truth in the song is that people don’t always make decisions that work to serve their best future interests. You might “wanna be a kid again” but there’s no going back. This is the only California she’s got. The clear solution is to take action now and pray it’s not too late.
For the first time in her discography, K.Flay presents a fresh and proactive perspective on facing difficulties. Rather than letting negativity and unhealthy coping mechanisms consume her, she allows herself to accept these difficulties as part of life and search for sources of change and support. “I’m lookin’ ahead, know I could be my own best friend,” she says. With a constructive perspective, it’s possible you can too.