Transitional records are tricky territory. While they can have an incredible windfall (i.e. Taylor Swift’s Red), they can also be a mixed bag of successes and pitfalls. Betty Who’s self-titled third album falls somewhere in the middle of that; it has more wins than losses, but it’s not the home run one would hope. Regardless of this, it is still an important body of work for the singer — her first as an independent artist — that should be celebrated for its attempts at greatness.
A subtler LP than its predecessor, 2017’s The Valley, Betty sees Who try on a few pop styles to see what fits her best, free to explore without the confines of a label. From acoustic-pop lead single “Between You & Me” to the explosive “Taste,” the singer finds a middle ground in the minimalist dance-pop most prominently showcased in “I Remember;” though most tracks have the bombastic choruses of Who’s previous output, they have a rough-around-the-edges quality to them that prove to listeners that she’s calling the shots this time around. I’m sure it’s a welcomed move for those that aren’t into the glossiness of most major pop albums, but it can sometimes feel like let down when you know a song could be that much better with a small addition in production.
An intriguing record from front to back, the second half feels much more immediate than the first, with a varied style between the tracks and confident writing providing an adventurous journey for the listener when compared to the singer’s first two albums. “All This Woman” features small moments of distortion, while “Ignore Me” is a kiss-off to an ex that’s trying to crawl their way back into her life; trying to shake off someone with power over her on “Whisper,” taking cues from mid-2000s Britney Spears on “The One.” The album’s best moment comes in its final track, “Stop Thinking About You,” when Who sings “when I don’t need to breathe to be alive/that’s when I’ll stop thinkin’ ‘bout you.” It’s an aching line from an aching song, but all the same feels hopeful in her delivery. Betty may not be a perfect record, but it’s a promise that the singer shouldn’t be counted out just yet.
Standout tracks: “Taste,” “Between You & Me,” “The One,” “Stop Thinking About You”