Berlin-based singer Bonnie Li wants us to die, and it’s music to our ears.
In connection with the release of her new album, “Wǒ Men“, Bonnie Li got in touch with us. Now, when we receive a nice email from a reader sharing their music, we’re always inclined to listen. Sometimes sympathetically. But this time, after just a few bars of single ‘I want you to Die’, I was completely enthralled – all too conscious that I was hearing something great.
In February, we saw Bonnie Li perform live during her album release party at Urban Spree. As she strutted out on stage, angular in oversized shoulder-pads, confrontational and bewitching, it became clear that ‘I want you to Die’ was not a fluke. It was a highlight in a set of genre-bending personal anthems and dark, stylised ranting dance numbers.
Bonnie Li’s command of her own voice, modulating tones of rasped spoken word and melodies driven to unknown destinations, and her challenging stage presence that edges into dark cabaret, contrast with her minimal beats and deep industrial backing from Elia M. It was the performance of a seasoned pro. A fully-formed concept taken to its sublime conclusion.
I want you to Die.
In the brief moment I got to meet Bonnie Li during the party, I self-consciously garbled that ‘I want you to Die’ is “everything I like in music (gulp)”.
And it’s true. From the first, creepy, mysterious, overblown theatrical line, ‘I want you to Die’, the isolated bass spirals down into the psyche of the protagonist: damaged, hurting and revenge-ridden. A knowingly juvenile response that you don’t quite believe she herself believes. But then the song changes gear.
With a glass-shattering shriek, the song is catapulted into a doowopdoowah ’60s rock’n’roll chord progression. Bonnie Li takes to heartfelt-yet-resenting crooning. David Lynch has entered the building as the cloying ’60s saccharine is distorted by Bonnie Li’s sinister delivery. It’s hitting dream-pop highs (nightmare-pop) as the multi-vocal chorus of ‘I want you to Die’ kicks in. Jaded, like The Ronnettes locked up too long in Phil Spector’s basement. Almost hilarious.
In a final push, Bonnie Li takes centre stage again, now confident, channelling a crazy Roy Orbison in a circus ‘In Dreams’. It’s as jarring and darkly comical as is it powerful and affecting. Bonnie Li’s melodies are stream-of-consciousness. Who needs words?
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