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Nothing's Real Sammy Maine , July 20th, 2016 11:43

Modern Synthpop has seen the genre become an expansion of its predecessors, mixing Chicago House into its background, with more of a pop sensibility at its core. Mainstream releases have seen successes from the likes of Banks, Jungle, Blood Orange and most recently, French pop star Christine and the Queens. And it's in this resurgence that the genre has become something almost entirely different; songs with their roots firmly in the past, but with a tumblr-esque aesthetic that is undeniably modern.

In this comes the bright spark of Shura. A pop star who provides a notably accessible aspect to pop music that often sits on a golden throne, produced by ex-Disney Channel superstars and distancing itself from our every day; their videos likened to cinematic masterpieces, their hair perfectly coiffed. With Nothing’s Real, Shura has reappropriated the genre to provide a normality within its dreamscape, creating songs in her bedroom about fancying people, with affordable gear and stripped-back yet intricate production.

She first came to prominence through 2014's ‘Touch’ – the first song Shura ever completed, with a DIY video of her friends snogging each other garnering millions of views on YouTube. It’s simple synth backdrop and playful vocal arrangements made it a bonafide hit – a slow-jam of the people with its subject entrenched in universal post-break-up confusions. A quick follow-up would have been the expected outcome but through her patience came the unhurried releases of singles ‘Indecision’, ‘2Shy’, and ‘White Light’; a pop star finding herself and her sound.

As far as its intent goes, Nothing’s Real has managed to become a focused, reassured collection of love songs, that not only follows on from the success of ‘Touch’, but almost outdoes it. It shows a songwriter honing her craft, meticulously planning the effect of the narrative as tracks saunter between the elated and the devastated. Shura has often spoken of her love of early Madonna, which can most notably be heard in the Italo Disco-style title track – a song that manages to include prominent syndrum pings without losing any of its credibility. It’s proof that Shura is unafraid to look uncool and in that, it makes Nothing Real all the more human.

This human aspect continues through the frequent but not oversaturated spoken recordings; a toddler Shura, for example, adorably speaking of her dislike towards her twin brother Nick on ‘(ii)’ is a welcome insight into a world that, when placed in the middle of her album, offers a certain vulnerability amidst the bangers – a sprinkling of personality often left unexposed in a world that favours perfectly posed Instagram posts from its pop stars.

Lyrically speaking, the album is uncomplicated; Shura speaks of her relationship turmoils in often, the most basic of terms but this, again, allows its relatability to shine through. As she declares “I never thought that we’d break up, thought we’d get married and have kids and stuff’ on ‘Kidz ‘N’ Stuff’, or “I’m no child but I don’t feel grown up” on the regretful ‘What Happened To Us?’, it allows the listener to build a connection through Shura’s straightforward, unabashed delivery whilst still being able to really get to know her. It’s a simplicity that offers an unguarded, accomplished performance.

Shura’s initial success with ‘Touch’ is obvious proof of her abilities as a songwriter and her decision to include it on the album – as well as singles ‘Indecision’, ‘2Shy’, and ‘White Light’ – is a clever one. Through their inclusion, Shura is proving that she is far from a one trick pony; a songwriter unafraid to put her well-known anthems against the new and the unknown. And they stand alongside them, equal in their triumphs.

Recent single ‘What’s It Gonna Be?’ for example, is a slice of pure elation, a song with its influences firmly planted in the soundtracks of late 80s teen comedies, with a tested yet contemporary execution in clever break-downs and a hook-heavy chorus. A perfect single choice and yet any song from this album could potentially be put on its own platform. To put it simply, Nothing’s Real is all killer, no filler.

Nothing’s Real is a debut that goes above and beyond what is normally expected of a Synth Pop record – namely, a few hit singles with a few faltering experimentations thrown in. It’s a premeditated LP that ensures its ordering will tell a story. One that the listener will not only relate to but will remember, thanks to a knack for a deeply contagious hook.

While Shura wears her influences on her sleeve, she is never overwhelmed by them, instead offering up a mish-mash of said influences with the unknown and the experimental that allows her to produce something that feels entirely new and entirely hers. As the opening track ‘(i)’ asks “Where’s Shura?”, Nothing’s Real is proof that Shura has carved out a name for herself in a distinctly oversaturated market. Here is a pop star that has undoubtedly arrived.

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