With a sound that’s several parts Amy Winehouse, a dash of Dionne Bromfield, a splash of Pixie Lott, and a dash of Lily Allen, newcomer Hollie Carmen has a lot to live up to with her debut EP, ‘Plan B’. Thankfully, she does.
Hollie grew up listening to the R&B and soul of the likes of Prince, Ray Charles, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill, all of which have had an obvious influence on her musical style. Contemporary artists, such as Dua Lipa, Alessia Cara, Jorja Smith, and Frank Ocean, have likewise played a role in forming her characteristic sound. Her four track EP, ‘Plan B’, belies her tender years: it’s hard to believe Hollie Carmen is still just 22; vocally she has a richness that would be envied by those at least 10 years her senior.
Hollie released the title track earlier this month, a smooth, R&B number, with elements of sleek soul. It’s the perfect opener for the EP, setting the tone, showing she’s someone who’s not going to be put in the corner. By anyone.
Second track, ‘Never Thought I’d Be That Girl’, however, shows a more vulnerable side to Hollie. The funky rhythms are perfectly matched to her sultry vocals, as she tells the story of knowing you need to leave a relationship, but find it hard to do, because you’re in love. Lyrically this is Hollie’s most Winehouse-esque; we’re left with a sense of hopelessness at the end of the track, and hope that she finally manages to break free.
‘The Way’, features Aaron Unknown, a hip hop artist and model whose upbringing in South-East London has had a deep influence on his music. His rap at about the halfway point of the track is a brilliant adjunct to Hollie’s near translucent vocals.
Hollie is a true Londoner, and it comes through in her vocals, sounding rich and confident. And that’s another thing about Hollie, she comes across as a determined and strong woman. Final song on the EP, ‘This Song’ shows Hollie setting her own terms in love:
“you were pretending you wanted to save me
But what made you think that I need saving?”
“Tell me do you like this song?
Do you miss me now your power’s gone?”
It reminds us lyrically of the Carly Simon classic, ‘You’re So Vain’ – just like Carly, Hollie is making sure the object of the song is aware – in no uncertain terms – that she’s not going to put up with any of that crap anymore.
Hollie Carmen launched her EP last night at The Waiting Room, in Stoke Newington, and if her live performance is anything like her studio recordings, she is sure to have been received well. With the promise of more music – Hollie has a plethora of unreleased tracks, in addition to this EP and previously released singles, ‘Butterflies’, and ‘Warrior Love’ – we are sure to be hearing the name Hollie Carmen for a long time to come.