This year Yuna released her third international studio album Chapters. From the album name you would predict that this will be some tell all about her life, however, that was not what emerged from listening to the album. Chapters, for the most part seemed like never ending chapter solely based on her love life and lessons she will not learn.
‘Mannequin’ is her first track, with the opening line asking “who are you?”. The track introduces us to a vulnerable and slightly jaded woman due to her past dealings with love. ‘Mannequin’ highlights her brokenness above all, as it portrays herself as some sort of canvas when approaching any love interest. Therefore, her lovers shape and create her identity, presumably leaving her empty and broken when they leave. ‘Lanes’ introduces us to what could possibly be her problem regarding her love life; in this song, she talks about someone who seemingly has different objectives and outlooks on life and the nature of a relationship. Although she sings “at the end of the day/ I wonder why you are with me/ we are on different lanes”, which indicates that she is aware that is a relationship she shouldn’t purse, she still tries. It seems that she is hanging in there as she proclaims herself as ‘wife material’ and a ‘good girl’; that reason should persuade the man in question should change lanes to hers. Her proclamation as a ‘good girl’ is questionable especially after listening to her previous track- nothing about being a mannequin is tantamount to being a good girl.
‘Crush’ is one of the best track on the album, in this track, Yuna partnered with Usher and had Robinsons Warfield as a writer. The track is a cool R’n’B track, reminiscent of old school R’n’B with Usher’s and Yuna’s voice beautifully intertwining each other the bridge. ‘Unrequited Love’ is after ‘Crush’ which could be seen as fitting. She has finished crushing, made her move and realised that the other party isn’t interested. She sings the lines “ You don’t want to belong to me/ Cos’ freedom taste better than I could give/ You love inadequately / and you still hearts like mine” which is more bitter than first thought. It seems that Yuna can’t spot her own flaws and this is the second example of her blaming the other party rather than looking at herself. If someone cannot give the love she wants, then why waste time with them? It could boil down to her wanting too much; having shown how broken and jaded she, is maybe the love she yearns for is a lot to ask- but she can’t see that. There lies her problem and this is one reason why the album isn’t enjoyable as I first imagined. From calling herself a ‘good girl’ to blaming others for their ’inadequacies’ when not loving her back, it seems that Chapters, is becoming a little pity party akin to Taylor Swift’s albums.
‘Best love’ is another R’n’B jam and again reminiscent of 90’s soul and R’n’B. The song is a proposal as she sings that this interest is the right one after knowing them for a while, which would result in the “best kind of love” due to the conditions the love transpired out of. Although the song itself is good, following the order of the album, Yuna is beginning to look slightly desperate. She has crushed on someone but the love was unrequited; she has opened up to someone else but realised they were not on her level. Maybe it’s time for some self – reflection and healing but she instead jumps to find another suitor. However, it seems that she does listen to my plea, as her next track ‘ Used to love you’ is a reflective song featuring Jhene Aiko’s breathy vocals creating even more of a light reflective atmosphere. She realised that she was indeed “a slave to love” going around the same cycles as before, and to break it she just needed to trust herself.
‘Too close’ is the logical step after her self-realisation, as she again becomes doubtful of any interest approaching her. ‘Best of me’ marks a mini break from the theme of love, as the song is an empowering song about fulfilling her dream. She addresses her online critics and naysayers in this track promising them that they will never defy her. The song was appreciated as it was relatable compared to some of the other songs on the album. ‘Your love’ is the return back to her search for love. As draining as it is, the song comes from a different aspect and thus explains a bit more about her behaviour. She sings that she has been on the pursuit for love similar to the one she experienced from a previous lover. Her lyrics “nothing compares to your love” is a nice subtle tribute to Sinead O’Connor and Salva’s production makes it a nice dance track.
‘All I do’ is the last track of the album, she talks about the loneliness she experiences due to her attachment to someone. As she sings she prays for her sanity to remain intact if and when this person leaves her. Although a sweet and honest song, as an ending it leaves a lot to be desired; yet it comes round full circle as we start the album as her as a mannequin and ends it with her possible left empty when her lover leaves her.
In the deluxe album, Yuna adds 3 more tracks. The first is ‘Places to go’ which samples the song Mahogany by Eric B. and Rakim. The song is influenced by 90’s east coast rap, already making a great tune, but what is more is that the lyrics are refreshingly not about her dire love life. Instead of looking for love, she is looking for something new where she can find new people and experiences. She looks to move to Toronto, New York and then back to her home of origin Kuala Lumpur, so essentially she is looking to place where she can call home and be herself. This rings true as she sings about the industry pressures being a singer; she hints that the business can cause you to lose your authenticity. Therefore, her look to move home makes sense, there she can be her authentic self.
The next is song is ‘Poor heart’ which again is self-reflection of her behaviour regarding love. Here she sings that despite what she puts herself through, she will never give up on love. ‘Time’ is the last song which she wrote with her label owner David Foster. Yuna sings about her mother’s teachings about patience and its benefits. Yuna reveals more about herself and chapters of her life as she tells us her sister died of cancer; her friend betrayed her; and her anger at the world. This ending is much better than her other one as we finally get to hear about the important chapters of her life, rounding the album up nicely.
Overall Yuna’s album Chapters was a colourful album to listen to, but the story did become dull at times however the message was clear. Love is her kryptonite and her poison.By Adaobi Nezianya