Maja Francis is a Swedish singer-songwriter who is known as Emo Dolly Parton, which is a little misleading. She does sing emotional songs in a voice with a striking similarity to Dolly Parton, but her sound is nothing like the bands that come to mind when you think of emo.
Her first EP Come Companion earned her glowing press both in her native Sweden and in international markets. It would have been easy for her to keep doing what made people take notice of her. However, it didn’t quite work that way. Of the transition between her Cry Baby EPs and her new album, she said, “I stopped feeling things from the inside. It made me sick, and I felt that I needed to stop with the music and with the image I created of myself, to be able to fall in love again. And somewhere among tears and pink cigarettes I started writing a diary which later became a voice memo which later became a whole album – A Pink Soft Mess.”
You can immediately hear the similarity to Parton in the opening song “Anxious Angel”, which begins with a sort of cooing that has a similar tone. Then you hear the first verse and you realize that it’s not just the tone that is similar. Francis also has a trill in her vocals and the melody is airy, which makes Francis’s vocals even more powerful.
A lot of songs have been written about people who choose to be lonely and sad, but Francis brings a different perspective to that theme in “PMS Party”. Over a muted guitar, she sings about pouring some wine in her favorite cup and not caring if she gets too drunk. In the chorus, she sings, “I’m having a PMS party. Nobody’s invited. I want to be lonely and do whatever I want.” Even if you can’t personally relate to the story she tells, you can’t help but notice that it’s a beautiful song about enjoying time by yourself.
You can hear some similarity to Adele in the melodies, complete with lush piano pop melodies with swells of strings and beautiful backing vocals. Francis’s vocals are not as big as Adele’s, but she has a similar ability to make you feel something with her lyrics. “Lava Love” is probably the song that comes closest to Adele. It’s in the rhythm of the piano as well as the way the melody moves between muted vocals and the crescendo that begins each chorus.
A Pink Soft Mess by Maja Francis is a stunningly beautiful album. Francis shows that she has as good a grasp on sad songs as any country artist who ever song about a broken heart. She can paint evocative pictures with her words and she can make you feel something with her vocals that are powerful even when they are muted. If you ever want to get all in your feelings, this album is a good soundtrack.
Photo credit: Milkdrop Studios