Why do good girls fall for bad boys? This is the central question of the debut album by power pop band The Royalty. Contrary to its innocuous title, Lovers is filled with liars, cheaters, drunks, emotional abusers, and commitment phobes, all memorialized in song by Nicole Boudreau, one of the year’s most dynamic and mesmerizing singers.
For all her songs of love gone wrong, Boudreau is neither a whiner nor a victim. On Lovers, the volume, force, intensity, and urgency of her voice projects confidence, strength, sass, and resilience. At various turns, she wails like Janis Joplin, croons like Amy Winehouse, rocks like Hayley Williams of Paramore, and occasionally slips into Broadway musical mode. Unlike, say, the languid style of Chromatics singer Ruth Radelet, there’s nothing restrained about Boudreau’s performance; she pours her heart and soul into every note. At the end of a studio session or show, her microphone might need a few Advil.
The Royalty, Say The Word
While Boudreau’s voice is the focal point, the rest of the Royalty anchors Lovers with a crisp, tight sound. Much of the music is in the emo-pop spirit for which the band’s label Victory Records is best known (and often maligned for churning out pale versions of their marquee acts, Thursday and Taking Back Sunday). But The Royalty also salts their sound with neo-soul grooves, surf rock guitar lines, and doo-wop backing vocals and handclaps. The driving pop of “I Want You” and “Mr. Hyde” recall the classic 1993 Breeders album Last Splash. And the penultimate song, “Saint Bowie,” declares “We Would Make Bowie Proud,” which makes sense given both artists’ soul influences, though oddly, the song sounds more like an 80’s anthem than anything by Sir David.
For all these seemingly disparate sounds, Lovers is ultimately a rock record with classic rock instrumentation –distorted guitars, bass, and drums-and splashes of ballpark organ and piano. There are even a few guitar and bass solos, refreshing not only for their tastefulness but for their relative rarity in contemporary indie music. The songwriting is also crisp, with simple chord progressions and classic verse chorus verse chorus structures. There are plenty of melodic guitar lines, and literally every song has a simple, memorable lyrical hook, whether it’s a repeated phrase such as “other boys,” “please lie” or “I’m in love with a bartender” or a triumphant chorus “Show me your other side/And I’ll show mine.” After a few listens, you could almost sing along to the whole album.
So why do good girls fall for bad boys? Like many poets and songwriters before her, Boudreau compares love to intoxication, addiction, magic, and witchcraft –all chemical and psychological states that subdue reason and logic. In “How I Like ‘Em,” she admits “rebels are better at kissing.” All this speaks to the romantic idealism of Lovers –and centuries of literature and song— that no matter how seemingly fanciful, impractical, dangerous, or foolish, we love who we love.