REVIEW: ELIO’s "Can You Hear Me Now?" Doesn’t Disappoint
ELIO first appeared on my radar as an inclusion on Charli XCX’s personally curated, frequently updated playlist “the motherfucking future,” where she had added “u and me, but mostly me,” one of ELIO’s first singles. Charli has since jumped onto ELIO’s team as a creative consultant; a big seal of approval for a new artist with well under 300,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. It might feel like ELIO has popped up out of nowhere and you wouldn’t be wrong; she only started releasing music last year under her moniker inspired by Timothée Chalemet’s protagonist in Call Me By Your Name. With that in mind, it’s impressive that she’s released an EP this cohesive. No matter what, ELIO knows who she is as an artist, even if she’s just getting started.
I had been looking forward to reviewing this EP for months. Opener and lead single “Jackie Onassis” was one of my most-played songs at the end of 2020. It’s an absolute pop treat, lush in its production and deceptively smart in its lyrics. Like Lorde’s “Royals,” what at first sounds like an indulgent track about wealth is actually a dream planned out by two kids in a small American town, desperate for something more. It directly calls out the problems inherent in a lavish lifestyle (“Only fly private to fit our baggage / Cause we're overdramatic / And the world is ending / So fuck the environment” somehow works, despite being extremely wordy, so, like, kudos) while acknowledging the romance in fantasizing about it for you and your loved ones. It’s criminally underrated and should've been a huge hit in an ideal world.
Even with the high expectations “Jackie” gave me, I wasn’t disappointed. “CHARGER” is a catchy thematic cousin to “Jackie,” also exploring contemporary romantic themes and containing similar minimalistic verses that explode into layered choruses. It has a much bouncier beat though, and the chorus delivery feels straight out of a 1989-era Taylor Swift song. Unlike “Jackie,” it really takes off in the second chorus, almost turning into a dance track by the end of the song.
After the two big pop songs, “hurts 2 hate somebody” brings things back down. It contains an almost gospel-tinged anthemic chorus, but the verses are laid back and make for easy listening. There’s even some saxophone at the end! The following track, “Come Round,” keeps things relaxed, but incorporates some autotune that I’m not totally sold on. It sounds good, but autotune sounds best when it’s playing off of a similarly-affected instrumental, and “Come Round” is too warm and keyboard-driven to really make it work.
It picks back up with “When U Saw Love,” a song that fits in with the first two on the project in sound. It’s even more lush than “Jackie,” but with a sharper dance-influenced chorus. I really enjoyed the chopping up of her vocals on the bridge; I could feel Charli’s influence in that moment.
The last two songs are more acoustic, especially “Fabric,” an apologetic ballad that ends the EP. It’s not a bad note to close out the project, but these songs are the least interesting on the project. “@elio.irl” is pretty at least, dipping into country and bedroom pop, even if it isn’t as fun as the other tracks with heavier production.
As the first major EP of 2021 that I’d been looking forward to, Can You Hear Me Now? will definitely be on rotation for me in the months to come. She doesn’t sound like anyone else and actually has something to say. She’s an exciting voice in pop music and I can only hope this is the year that everyone else realizes it.
McKinzie Smith is a former film student from Portland, OR. In her adolescence, she followed Fall Out Boy up and down the West Coast. She now considers herself very cool and normal and only a little bit emo. She now spends most of her time listening to Charli XCX in her kitchen and writing articles about things she likes.