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I stumbled upon a tweet recently that read, “No Swedish-Iranian white woman should be this good at R&B but here we are.” Comedic commentary aside, the music Snoh Aalegra creates is oftentimes mind-blowingly good. She thrives in a pocket of her own that’s equidistant from the trapsoul artists of the world and the traditional R&B vocalists that lay on the other side of the spectrum. Both her 2017 debut Feels and subsequent sophomore effort, Ugh, Those Feels Again shine brightly on her portfolio and provide proof towards her impressive artistry. However, the aforementioned tweet begs the question that needs answering: What makes Snoh Aalegra so good?
The answer to that question can be approached from many different angles. However, using her newly-released third album, Temporary Highs In The Violet Skies, as a starting point seems fitting enough. The effort arrives less than two years after Ugh, Those Feels Again, a short return time compared to her R&B contemporaries. In this brief period, Aalegra was able to create a shift in her outlook towards love. It went from deeply longing for a forever partner as she unveils on her first two albums to make the very most of these perfect moments on Temporary Highs In The Violet Skies, regardless of its brevity.
One thing to note about Snoh Aalegra is her ability to string the most impactful words together without the fiery dose of infatuation, sadness, or anything in between that conveys the expected emotions on a given song. Actions speak louder than words, but for the singer, her most heartfelt moments appear with grace, and the painful ones arrive with elegance while her words, quite literally, do all the talking. Staying cool, calm, and collected seems to be her forte, one she portrays so well.
To introduce the album, Aalegra begins with “Indecisive,” a steady-paced effort driven by her nonchalance as chants repeat through the song — “I don’t really care” — but it’s a mere scratch compared to the other things she says on the track. Other lines like “Let me make it clear / Everything is not about you” and “You should have thought about that while you was with me,” cut much deeper. These nonchalantly wrapped declarations come from a hurt place, but the singer stays in control to deliver her message exactly how she wants to. Similar sentiments are expressed to close the album on “Save Yourself.” On it, she bids goodbye to a relationship that proved to be nothing but a failure and dismisses them with one final reminder: “But just know I’m good without you.”
This control and taming of emotions that Aalegra exhibits may not be a natural quality, but rather, a choice to alter her perspective on situations and expense her energy or what’s worth it in her eyes. Perhaps the best example of this comes from the best song on Temporary Highs In The Violet Skies: “Tangerine Dream.” The song is a dreamy tale of two lovers who depart on their separate paths but not before one last run-in on a flight. The potential reignition of their relationship only exists in the clouds their plane flies through, providing a double entendre for a temporary high. In Aalegra’s eyes, it’s better to spend her time at cruising altitude immersed in the warm thoughts that she and her co-passenger once shared. It’s a far better option than fixating on the separate path she’ll walk on once she retrieves her bags from baggage claim.
Her love for these brief moments in paradise turns her into a frequent flyer of sorts as she admittedly revisits these temporary highs to reside in the violet skies she loves so much. Aalegra blatantly ignores the poor qualities of an insufficient lover on “Lost You” simply because they bring her a healthy dose of euphoria. “I won’t hold the past against you,” she sings. “When you hold me, I forget to / I can never draw the line with you.” She clings to cloud nine and avoids addressing the issues that pain her on “We Don’t Have To Talk About It” while “Dying 4 Your Love,” the lead single from the album, seeks the answers she wants rather than the ones that stand so obviously before her.
Temporary Highs In The Violet Skies is a testament to enjoying the moment and keeping the mind off what might happen next, whether it be an inevitable end or an uncertain future that lies ahead. It’s an approach that Aalegra makes clear on “In My Eyes,” an outlier record of sorts on the project thanks to upbeat production from The Neptunes. “Some things don’t work and that’s the way love goes,” she sings on the record. Love guarantees nothing, and Aalegra is very much aware of this, which is why she indulges in these temporary highs as often as she does, an attribute that points to what makes her great. The singer uses the briefest emotions of love, pain, and everything in between to create pieces of art that portray the most-telling worlds, just like she did on “Tangerine Dream.” Keeping your head in the clouds is a bad thing, as some might say, but the way Snoh Aalegra tells it, these Temporary Highs In The Violet Skies are everything and more.
Temporary Highs In The Violet Skies is out now via Atrium Recordings/Roc Nation Records. Get it here.