For years, Orange County's Delacey has dwelled in the shadows of breakout hits written for other artists (The Chainsmokers' "New York City", Halsey's "Without Me"). Honest and straightforward, her vulnerability trickled onto the pop-soaked melodies, making it only a matter of time before she stepped out into the limelight and started singing the words herself. Her dreamy debut, "My Man", exposed her as not only a prolific songwriter, but a relatable songstress that probably drinks too many glasses of wine and online stalks her ex's new girlfriend just the same as the rest of us do on any given night. It's this easy rapport that makes her debut album Black Coffee so perfectly balanced, you'll soon forget where each song begins and where they end, simply getting lost in the conversation.
Black Coffee isn't an oversaturated, trap-backed pop, nor is it a brooding, minimal acoustic pop. It finds itself somewhere in between, filling out the spaces with rich, lustrous instrumentation and heart-piercing vocals. Lamenting an unrequited love, Delacey opens up with the soft-edged "Damn", a smooth-tongued delivery that should be praised for its clever narrative—"Like a kid in a supermarket / When I'm reaching for your heart / It might as well be above chocolate." Instances of inspired lyrics buried under a breathy production are dispersed throughout the entire album, with Delacey succumbing to the sad girl persona with razor sharp wit. On the title track, she describes herself as bitter as black coffee, pleading for some affection despite her dark nature. The confession isn't tiring, on the contrary, it's absolutely liberating.
While her debut centres itself around her darkest thoughts—the heartbreak on "The Subway Song", the fear of being found out on "Actress"— there are small moments of optimistic recognition that make this album feel human. "Chapel", a playful proposal of marriage, sees Delacey performing in her usual coy manner, but there is a shift in the production. The bass line feels loose, the drum hats flirt with her soft trilling chorus, and the guest guitar notes melt like butter onto the smooth jazz-inspired arrangement. Though the album was produced by Ido Zmishlany (Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello, Demi Lovato), it feels entirely hers, every key stroke sincere and believable enough to be dreamt up by her own intricate mind. Even with wistful lyrics in tow, she manages to make tracks like "Break Up Slow Dance" feel comforting rather than sorrowful. Featuring the guest vocals of James Alan Ghaleb of Valley Boy, the leisurely verses give way to the sparkling '80s-inspired synths, colouring everything in a soothing pastel hue. It makes the explicit "Cruel Intentions" feel out of place, and not for its sexual assertions. Delacey's allure is derived from the juxtaposition of her gritty, unpretentious lyrics paired with the elegance of a soft and articulate production. By adopting a more contemporary composition of compact percussions, and giving collaborator G-Eazy the same creative liberties, her voice loses its potency in the fold.
This is truly a woman who can stun with one word, and leave you breathless with another. If there's anything that Black Coffee has taught me, is that Delacey needs no one to shine the light upon her. She thrives in the darkness, and we're just lucky to be invited in.