Kadhja Bonet’s 2018 album Childqueen is a uniquely ethereal experience. Neither pop nor alternative, the album flows sublimely from the melancholic to the upbeat, from lyrical to instrumental. The actual singing is at times overpowered by the instrumental aspects, but I still highly recommend this album as a chill ambience backdrop for a variety of listening environments.
American artist Kadhja Bonet has music flowing through her veins, literally. Both of her parents are musicians, and she has played instruments from a young age. Relatively new to the scene, her first single was released in 2014, shortly followed by her mini album The Visitor in 2015. Childqueen, written while touring, is her debut full-length album. It has been described by others as “spellbinding”, and I have to agree.
Childqueen lacks the modern, jazzy beat of Kadhja’s most recent single, On Sight. Conversely, it seems even more modern and otherworldly than her premiere album The Visitor, which heavily features pleasant instrumental overtures overlaid on a subtle, bassy beat. It does also feature slightly more lyrics, however as I previously mentioned, it can seem at times a bit of a struggle to discern them underneath the prominent melodies.
The album takes the listener on a celestial journey through a broken relationship. The intro song, Procession, has very few words but a very spacey melody, not unlike the soundtrack to a feature film. Through the next few songs, especially Another Time Lover and Delphine, the listener gains more insight into the fact that this is more of a lament of the relationship that wasn’t, rather than one that was. These are the emotional low point of the album, and the mood quickly turns after the pensive Thoughts Around Tea. By the time we reach Mother Maybe, Kadhja has moved on to musing about the future or perhaps, even, another dimension in which this relationship could truly materialize. The final song, simply titled “…”, takes us away on an instrumental lullaby.
Lyrics on this album are few and far between compared to many artists, but certainly not to the detriment of the listening experience. Again, I did find them mostly hard to discern and had to research them externally in order to confirm them. Most of them read like pleasant, iambic poems. Admittedly, I did find some of them a little bizarre, but this could be due to misunderstanding them.
The standout tracks to me were without a doubt Procession and Delphine. Procession evokes images of a church choir and it would not be found out of place at the beginning of a film or a rarefied nature scene. The repetition of “Everybody needs a chance to renew/ Chance to renew…” sets the tone for the ponderous quality of the following tracks. The listener is primed to listen for who, exactly, will be renewed and is automatically set to wonder what happened in the past to warrant a renewal at all. Delphine is what really solidified this album as a loving lament for me. It serves as the sorrowful valley of the album and is a fantastic epilogue for Another Time Lover. The song is an ode to a lover fading (or already faded) away and its heartbroken pleas for her return are once again wonderfully juxtaposed with the melodic qualities of the album as a whole.
Ironically, one of my least favorite songs on the album was its namesake, Childqueen. To me it sounds a bit too Christmas-y and, for a titular song, it is really lacking in the verbal department. The only meaningful word I could make out with any degree of certainty was “childqueen”, which unfortunately does not give me much information. I found myself wanting more out of this track, but the pace abruptly switches as we move directly into Another Time Lover.
Overall, I found Childqueen an exceptional album. It truly does defy genre descriptions in the best possible way. It is at once psychedelic and classical, otherworldly and grounded. I give it 4/5 stars and am very much looking forward to Bonet’s next release.
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