Prioritise Pleasure

Self Esteem

Prioritise Pleasure

On Compliments Please, her 2019 debut as Self Esteem, Rebecca Taylor reintroduced herself to the world in a way that stunned fans of her previous work as one half of Sheffield indie-folk duo Slow Club. Here was Taylor fully realised as an artist—a millennial Madonna delivering personal polemic within a kaleidoscopic blast of bombastic pop. For this follow-up, Taylor has doubled down on that MO, creating a record that is bigger, better and even more unapologetically true to herself. “On my first album I didn’t know what Self Esteem was, really,” she tells Apple Music. “Back then we were finding out and, now I know what it is, it’s a much more self-assured way to work. I knew I wanted to make Compliments Please 2, essentially. I wanted to do similar production but bigger and bolder. If there’s one violin, I want it to be a quartet. If it’s three-part harmony, I want it to be a choir. I just wanted to build it and make it more massive.” Over 13 frank, funny and vital tracks, Prioritise Pleasure finds Taylor exploring sex and sexuality, misogyny and toxic relationships. “Lyrically, I’ll always reflect where I’m at in my life,” she adds. “A lot of changes have happened between the first record and the second record.” Above all else though, it’s a record that uses skyscraping pop bangers to deliver a triumphant message of self-acceptance. Here, Taylor talks us through it, track by track.
“I’m Fine” “With that slow beat opening it, me and my producer were like, ‘This would be an amazing first song…’ I’d wanted to write about something that’s happened to me. I wanted to reclaim my independence and my sexuality and my right to live my life however I want after that had been taken in a traumatic way. It has become this sort of mission statement at the top of the record for the thing I’m singing about. But for anyone who feels like they have to live their life because of the way society is—it’s for you.”
“Fucking Wizardry” “If I had my time again, I wouldn’t put this on because I feel so overwhelmed singing it back. But it was very much where I was at when I was writing. I was in a relationship. I really, really loved him and we could have had a really good relationship, but his ex didn’t leave him alone during it. I had to get a thicker skin and build myself back up and say, ‘Do you know what? I’m not doing this.’ I did feel really hurt. I succumbed to jealousy and fear and I didn’t feel good enough. I’m embarrassed by my spitefulness, but it’s also very human and it’s important for me to show all the sides of myself on the record.”
“Hobbies 2” “Kate Bush was someone I was thinking about when I was making this. She was an artist first and foremost and created the work. If it happened to be a hit then cool, but she was never going to deviate from just coming out of her head. This feels like a 2021 [1985 Bush hit] ‘Running Up That Hill.’ It’s so funny too. I’m basically saying I’ve got time to have this fuck buddy, but only if I’m not busy. I think that’s a very modern thing to have committed to song.”
“Prioritise Pleasure” “All of my songs link to each other, because I’m always thinking about sex, sense of self, heartbreak or defiance. They’re always in there. Prioritise Pleasure is sexy and it’s about prioritising yourself in that way, but also it’s about prioritising just what you want every day. As a woman, I’ve people-pleased and shape-shifted and sort of begged the world to not be mad with me my whole life. The turnaround and the key to my happiness is to not do that anymore.”
“I Do This All The Time” “I’d wanted to a song that was like [Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)’]. And a song that’s like ‘Dirrty’ by Christina Aguilera. I did one take. It’s almost like it possessed me. I had to just make it. There was this moment when I was tracking and recording the string line, I walked home, listened to it and thought, ‘I could just stop now.’ There was this part of me that was like, ‘This is it. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. This is always what I wanted to say.’ I’ve not had that feeling before.”
“Moody” “I loved the keyboard sound and Johan [Karlberg, producer] just smashed a loop out. I had the lyric ‘Sexting you at the mental health talk seems counterproductive’ for ages so I put that in and that set the tone of what I wanted to write about. Spelling-out pop choruses are always L-O-V-E or whatever, I’ve always had this idea of spelling out something that has negative connotations. I thought it would be funny to do a song where I’m saying what I’m saying in the form of very sugary pop. It’s a bit of a piss-take really, me being sarcastic about girly pop music.”
“Still Reigning” “That’s a sister song to ‘She Reigns’ on the first record. I’m obsessed with acceptance at the minute and letting things just be. I’ve always been someone who wants to strong-arm reality into what I need it to be, rather than just letting it happen. I was a very convincing kid. I remember convincing my dad to get a dog by drawing a pamphlet that I pretended was from the RSPCA, where I listed the benefits of having a dog. That was cute, but I was just being a manipulative little shit. I’ve always been like, ‘I want this, why not?’ That’s how I was approaching a relationship that I wanted to continue and they didn’t. Finally, the penny dropped about letting things go with the flow and about acceptance and love.”
“How Can I Help You” “‘Black Skinhead’ was something we were going for in mood. Everything comes back to Kanye production every time we’re stuck. It’s a weird song but I’m a punk at my core. I love pop but I cut my teeth playing in a lot of punk bands. It’s a little nod to the tapestry of me and my music. Being a woman is hard enough. Being someone who wants to please everyone is very hard. Then being in the music industry has been really hard. So [the lyrics are about] all of it.”
“It’s Been A While” “Me and Johan both really love trap and I requested a very, very deep, dark trap loop. This one is a bit of another timestamp. I’m addicted to my phone and the sort of weariness from it. I’ll be texting someone I’m seeing. Then I’m on Twitter making some sort of joke. Then I’m reading some news report about something awful. Then I’m on Instagram liking some cute woman’s picture. It’s round and round and round and my eyes are consuming so much all day. Also, I was still going out with that guy that was treating me pretty cheap. Again, it comes back to trying to strong-arm the world into doing what I want. It’s about all those things.”
“The 345” “It’s me singing to me. It’s very on-the-nose. I just wondered what a love song to myself would be. I sing so many love songs to these people that come in and out of my life. I wondered what would happen if I sang to the person that’s not going to go anywhere, which sounds quite sad.”
“John Elton” “It’s playing on the idea that these people come into your life and you love them and then they go and then that’s it. I’ve always struggled with that. Someone I loved who I had the joke with, and the joke was a really shit joke, but it still makes me laugh. Then you go to chat about it but everyone’s lives have moved on. People get married and have children and I’m just still out here laughing at the stupid joke we had. It’s an interesting little jolt back to reality and all part of the experience. I end the song by saying it’s all for me. No matter what, all of this is mine and all of these experiences are mine and that’s it.”
“You Forever” “This is coming from a place of deciding whether or not to get back with someone. At one point in time, I really wanted to and I said that, and the other person said, ‘You need to be braver.’ Also an acceptance is creeping in where I’ve been all right on my own and I will be all right on my own. That’s important to hold on to. Modern dating is as much about not wanting to be alone as it is about trying to meet someone you like. To be all right on your own really does mean if you meet someone and they add something to your life, that’s what it should be about.”
“Just Kids” “With a lot of my songs, when it’s not just romantic relationships, it’s about the frustration and the desire to be loved by someone who just won’t. Deciding to stop trying is what the song is about. Accept it and leave it with love but move forward in your life. It feels like a good place to try and put that to bed before I write the next album.”

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