A Reckoning

A Reckoning

When New Zealand singer-songwriter Kimbra began work on her fourth album, the artist born Kimbra Johnson set out to explore the issue of rage. A product of the turmoil she witnessed on the streets of her adopted home, New York City, during the Black Lives Matter protests and her fury at how she’d been treated by the male-dominated music industry, it inspired her to figure out “how I healthily move through this.” “As I moved through that emotion, I realized there’s a lot of stuff on the other side of it, too, like surrender and letting go and how you have to be vulnerable to look at your rage,” she tells Apple Music. Lyrically, A Reckoning charts that journey, backed by a freewheeling art-pop canvas that veers from the solitude of somber opener “save me” to the frantic chants of “replay!” and the industrial stabs of “gun.” “We knew we were doing something really bold and a new side of what people had heard from me,” Kimbra offers. Here, the artist talks through A Reckoning, track by track. “save me” “I think it was a sort of admission of how I’d lost myself a bit and looked to someone else to pick up all the pieces, and how that feels really good sometimes to just ask someone to save you. Surrender is so important to personal growth—when you admit, I’m really quite broken right now. And then, on the rest of the record, we start going into the psyche and the madness, and then reclaiming sexuality and being like, no, I’m a strong woman. But ‘save me’ is the first step of being like, I have given over power to someone else. And I now need to find it for myself.” “replay!” “‘replay!’ is a conversation with all the chaos inside. And also, [with] the demise of a relationship, it’s really hard to let go sometimes because we think that if we hold on to the memories, we’re going to stay connected to that person. It’s kind of an unsettling thought that you would keep making yourself ill thinking about dark things. And I have to lean into it because the only way I can manage my own chaos is to look at it in the face.” “gun” “I’ve had a lot of difficult moments, especially with men and power in the music industry. And words that were meant to set me free, or contractual language that was meant to be really empowering, turned out to be putting me in these really stuck positions where this freedom you potentially gave me actually ended up being like a gun to my head. I was stuck in contracts that were so disempowering, and people that I trusted really did not have a clean agenda. And ‘gun’ is really about, I earned my right to talk this way. I worked really hard for this.” “the way we were” “When you go through the emotions of ‘gun,’ there is an ease at the end of that—when you have a catharsis and you feel like, I can move. I can relax a bit now. It’s that tenderness back again. It’s like, I’m so angry at the way you fucked me over, but then also I miss my relationship with these men that worked with me early on in my career. It was also a beautiful time, and they gave me a leg up.” “new habit” “‘new habit’ is about how we need to distract ourselves when we’re trying to move through big emotions. We’re like, this is getting too hard; I just need my candy fix. Filling myself with casual sex and, of course, that’s a dead end, too. So, that leads us to the next phase.” “GLT” (feat. Erick the Architect) “The song is kind of saying, I’m so much more than the boxes you’re putting me in. We stereotype so easily, but how do we have space for the multifaceted woman? I’m searching for substance with a lot of my work, and A Reckoning is about that, too. It’s looking at the ways that we objectify each other and trying to come back to being more.” “la type” (feat. Pink Siifu & Tommy Raps) “I’ve spent a lot of time in LA, and I have encountered a certain kind of energy in the dating culture there. So, ‘la type’ is really sassy. Like, ‘Look, I see through you. I see what you’re doing. I see the superficiality of the way you are just looking to climb a ladder when you take me out for dinner.’ So, it was just me taking back that power. And again, asserting what I like and what I don’t like.” “foolish thinking” (feat. Ryan Lott) “I wanted there to be kind of an Act 2, and ‘foolish thinking’ is like, all right, I’m now contemplating motherhood, I’m now really thinking about wanting to be serious. And it’s an admission that there will be lots of ways I want to save my kid from things I’ve been through and make it all better for them. But at the end of the day, what do I know? I’m still making so many mistakes. So, it was just a poem I wrote for my future daughter—a moment of intimacy with her, saying I thought I could remove the pain. But that’s my foolish thinking. And it leads us into a more reflective, contemplative part of the record, which is the letting go.” “personal space” “‘personal space’ is part of the reclamation of finding yourself and gaining some sort of strength. You just need to be alone sometimes. I spent a lot of time being afraid to stand up for myself in the industry, to record labels—it’s hard to believe in yourself sometimes. So, ‘personal space’ is going inward again, and now we have the confidence to go there because we’ve spent all this time facing everything. Now it’s like, OK, now I can be with myself. So, that was a coming-down moment for the record.” “i don’t want to fight” “‘I don’t want to fight’ is really a letting go, and it’s saying there’s only so far we can go with violence and conflict and rage, and at some point, there has to be a surrender and there has to be humility. And there’s a kind of exhaustion to it. I’ve felt this in many relationships in my life—that sometimes you try and try, and you just can’t get where you want to get, and that’s actually OK. You accept that things are the way they are. And there’s a time for just saying, ‘I need to walk away now.’”

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