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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Criticism: Faye Webster’s ‘Underdressed at the Symphony’

Art Critic Emma Ehle says the album is both beautifully understated and slightly underwhelming
Art+Critic+Emma+Ehle+says+Faye+Webster%E2%80%99s+%E2%80%9CUnderdressed+at+the+Symphony%E2%80%9D+is+both+beautifully+understated+and+slightly+underwhelming.+%28Photo+via+Paul+Hudson%2FFlickr%2FCC+BY+2.0+DEED%29
Art Critic Emma Ehle says Faye Webster’s “Underdressed at the Symphony” is both beautifully understated and slightly underwhelming. (Photo via Paul Hudson/Flickr/CC BY 2.0 DEED)

On Friday, March 1, indie folk sweetheart Faye Webster released her long anticipated fifth studio album, titled “Underdressed at the Symphony.”

An understated yet intricate project following her 2022 EP “Car Therapy Sessions,” 2021 studio album “I Know I’m Funny Haha” and 2019 breakthrough project “Atlanta Millionaires Club,” “Underdressed” does not stray from Webster’s classic jazzy drawl set to experimental, genre-bending sounds. It’s a beautifully produced and sonically complex album, reflecting the 26-year-old Georgia native’s roots in both R&B and alt-country. It also, however, is not particularly memorable.

“Underdressed,” to me, is 37 minutes of easy-listening music. It is soft, slow and feels a more contemporary version of the dreamy, singer-songwriter ballads that my mother would’ve played around the house when I was a child. To put it plainly, it translates like very beautiful background music. My chief complaint, however, is that you cannot have an entire album of background music. 

While “Underdressed” is not without its nuance both lyrically and sonically, it’s also slightly repetitive, with several of the album’s tracks feeling a bit like a lost loop of mellow instrumentals and redundant, cyclical lyrics. This is seen most clearly through tracks “Lifetime,” “Tttttime” and “He Loves Me Yeah!” — which appears to be a slight nod to the Beatles’ classic “She Loves You.” 

While I’m not lost on the power that a repetitive lyric can hold — with Phoebe Bridgers’ “Waiting Room” and Boygenius’ “Not Strong Enough” existing at the forefront of songs that could send me into a downwards spiral at the drop of a hat — it’s paramount that repetitive lyrics pack a punch. Webster’s lyrics, in these specific tracks, do not achieve this.

In its stronger moments, “Underdressed” yields vulnerable lyricism, eccentric instrumentals and seamless slips between the seams of R&B, jazz, classical and country music. Several of the album’s most striking tracks include “Underdressed at the Symphony,” “Lego Ring” (featuring  Webster’s childhood friend Lil Yachty) and previous single, “But not Kiss,” which contrasts the subtle, smooth backdrop of the rest of the album. 

Ultimately, in reiterating the distinctive “easy-listening” sound achieved by “Underdressed”’s mellow beats and soulful sound, the project is, overall, slightly underwhelming. While it’s not by any means a bad album — with Webster’s stunning vocals and unique genre-play quickly eliminating that possibility — it’s also not a project that will leave a lasting impression.

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