FLETCHER ventures through the seven stages of grief in ‘The S(ex) Tapes’ EP, an unfiltered, unapologetically honest and voyeuristic record full of self-exposure and intimacy, pain and guilt, acceptance and hope.
Stream: “Bitter” – FLETCHER, Kito ft. Trevor Daniel
The seven stages of grief set to music; how would that look? Would it all be in black and white or would there be moments of colour? Like life, heartbreak and grief is never one shape, it shifts and morphs throughout the day. If there is one thing this year has taught us is that what we grieve is vast and complicated, and how we grieve is as personal as the arch in our eyebrow or the way we dance when no one’s watching.
On September 9th, American pop artist FLETCHER released The S(ex) Tapes EP via major label Capitol Records. The aesthetic of the EP, from the artwork to the music videos, is that of voyeurism, or of a sex tape being leaked. But instead of the man being the voyeur over the woman, it is FLETCHER herself who is both the object of the voyeur and the voyeur herself. The EP itself was “leaked” by FLETCHER nine days before the actual release date, in keeping with the whole aesthetic and the artist remaining in complete control. At times you feel like a voyeur, but at the same time, it is also yourself you see in these videos and hear in her songs.
A sex tape is someone being captured in their most vulnerable, wildest, rawest form, and my ex has always captured me that way. She shot and directed all the visuals for this EP after we made the insane decision to quarantine together. Hence it being called The S(ex) Tapes. It’s just a really personal voyeuristic look in on our relationship, which was private up until this point, over the last 4 years.
Hailing from New Jersey, FLETCHER (born Cari Elise Fletcher) is a force of nature: Unfiltered, raw and unapologetically honest in her music. She attended the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University, and has released three EPs over a four-year period. A member of the LGBTQ+ community, she has been vocal in her support for the #MeToo movement. All the artwork and music videos that accompany The S(ex) Tapes EP were shot and directed by FLETCHER’s ex-girlfriend Shannon Beveridge, who is also the The S(ex) Tapes’ primary subject matter.
The EP consists of seven tracks, with each song representing part of the seven stages of grief, only to be repeated as the final track fades out.
‘The S(ex) Tapes’ is about an on again, off again, on again, currently off again relationship with someone and kind of just explores all the territory that comes with a situation like that. The EP is kind of like the 7 stages of grief in its own sort of fucked up way, each song representing a different emotion through the stages of a breakup.
Stream: ‘The S(ex) Tapes’ – FLETCHER
The S(ex) Tapes opens with “Silence”. It is quiet, sensual and the softest song on the EP. It has a languid vibe to it, evoking feelings of being in a dream or a suspended a reality, of being outside of yourself and knowing exactly what you need and what you need is…
All I need is time and space and silence
Cut communication ’cause I’m trying
To learn that I can lose you and survive it
If I Hated You
“If I Hated You” is that all too common feeling of wishing that you hated the one who left because then getting over them would be easier and wishing on eyelashes wouldn’t seem like a logical thing to do.
“If I Hated You” was the very first song I wrote with Mozella about a year and a half ago. It’s really the foundation of the project messaging wise. It’s this idea that I wish my ex could’ve just done something to make me hate her so it’d be easier to go. But it’s always been the opposite.
The accompanying music video takes the aesthetic of voyeurism and runs with it. FLETCHER is shown setting up cameras in a non-descript hotel room, you initially think to watch someone, but it is FLETCHER being watched by herself in various states of undress, through various filters and at various angles. FLETCHER is never viewed in her entirety; the bottom half of her is obscured in favour of her top half or vice versa, and when you do see her as a whole it is at a distance or filtered through neon green. She never exists as a whole but rather as fragments of a memory she is piecing together.
In John Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’ he says that, “Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object – and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”
Is FLETCHER is surveying herself through the male gaze? Or is the gaze her own?
Bitter (ft. Kito)
This is the third track on the EP and the one that stood out for me the most. On September 25th, FLETCHER re-released the song in collaboration with the rapper Trevor Daniels, however it is the solo version that deserves the listen. The EP is her story after all; her personal heaven or hell.
The rawness of “Bitter” comes through in FLETCHER’s ability to convey through everyday scenarios, how it really feels to know that your ex has moved on and you’re the one stuck in a heap on the kitchen floor.
It’s like being on the outside of an inside joke
It’s like when they only got Pepsi and you really want Coke
It’s like you finally get a text back
and it’s just your mom
It’s like when you just broke up and they play your song
The chorus is the one thing that sticks out like a bleeding thumb, both because at times it makes you feel like it’s your ex that’s fucking their new girlfriend on the kitchen counter, but also because it literally sounds like she is spitting out the words like venom.
I know she thinkin’ that she found herself a winner
I know you fucked her on the counter
right before you cooked her dinner
I know you think about me when you kiss her
I left a taste in your mouth, can she taste me now
The One & Ssh… Don’t Say It
“The One” and “Ssh… Don’t Say It” go hand-in-hand. The former is an ode to casual sex and using that person as a bandage for your heartbreak. Sonically, it’s abrasive and frenetic. The opening is full of distortion, which never really fades. The rest of the EP, though battling through grief and heartbreak has a warmth or sensuousness to it, but “The One” is the only track that feels cold and disconnected from the heart.
I don’t really need nobody
I just kinda want your body
My life’s a mess,
but it’s hot, so you won’t be sorry
And we don’t need to fake it
’cause we don’t need to make it
I don’t care if we make it, no, no
The latter is the bit after, the bit when that person tells you they love you and you just don’t want to hear it; the part where the heart catches up with the body. FLETCHER has said that Britney Spears’ Blackout was a big inspiration for “Ssh… Don’t Say It”. Echoes of Spears’ “Piece of Me” can be heard throughout as the rhythm of versus and choruses collide.
You dream of me dressed in white
I dream of you dressed up in nothin’
I like you, you’re my type
Let’s make out, but I’ll make it clear
not lookin’ for something
“Feel” is the only song not written by FLETCHER. Writers Jenn Decilveo (“All Love” and singer-songwriter Caitlyn Smith penned the track together. This is the moment after all the bravado comes crashing down and you realise you are going to have sit with and feel the hurt. The versus are softly spoken, restrained even, and then the chorus hits with FLETCHER’s big and soaring vocals, and suddenly your heart is cracked open and all those feelings come rushing in.
Now I’m lyin’ here awake
Just starin’ at the ceiling fan
Spinnin’ ’round in circles
All over again
Sex (With My Ex)
The S(ex) Tapes closes with “Sex (With My Ex)”. This the one that hurts. It’s uncomfortable, raw, and it is as close to real life grief and shame as a song will get you.
I just had sex with my ex
In a New York apartment
Now I’m a mess, I’m obsessed
I’m right back where I started, broken-hearted
It is the most organic and atmospheric of the all the songs on the EP: you can almost hear, feel and see New York City in-between the beats and the piano sparkling in the background.
“Sex (With My Ex)” gives you a frame by frame encounter with your ex and how, despite what you told yourself would be harmless, unsurprisingly turns out to the beginning of the end. Again.
I didn’t write them in order but the songs are in a really specific order on the EP and follow the story exactly the way our relationship has played out.
The S(ex) Tapes is circular; there’s not a defined beginning and end. It could easily be a metaphor for repeating the same behaviors over and over until you finally learn what you needed to learn. Or it could just be that you can never really escape grief if you continue to love.
It explores a lot of contradicting themes like holding on and letting go, absence and presence, past and future, pain and guilt, but also feeling sexy and independent and hooking up with other people in the times you’re broken up. Then, crying in the shower about it the next day. The project ends on “Sex (With My Ex)” which is its own form of acceptance and hope with the “goodbye forever, until next time.” but then it just sort of loops you right back to the beginning of the cycle which is “Silence” and the phase that I’m in right now.
FLETCHER’s The S(ex) Tapes EP is out now.
Stream: ‘The S(ex) Tapes’ – FLETCHER
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