Editors’ Notes If there’s one word Lorely Rodriguez—aka LA-based singer, songwriter, and producer Empress Of—would use to describe her third album, it’s desperate. “It’s a big word for this record,” Rodriguez tells Apple Music. “These songs are painful and vulnerable and urgent, and the lyrics are definitely not sugar-coated.” Written in only two months—and spanning just over half an hour—I’m Your Empress Of is a raw, frenetic, and at times relentless exploration of heartbreak, navigating everything from wanting someone back (“Give Me Another Chance”) to nighttime loneliness (“Love Is a Drug,” the devastating “Not the One”) and meeting someone new (“Hold Me Like Water”). Amid it all, Rodriguez—who also scatters her Honduran mother Reina’s inspiring words of wisdom across the record—barely allows herself (or us) to pause for breath, with tracks bleeding into the next. “I wanted to feel like it never stops,” she says. “Because my life was like that at the time; it didn’t stop. I ended a relationship just as my second record Us came out, and then went on tour for a year straight. I didn’t really have time to think about how it made me feel. I got two months [off from touring] and woke up at 8 am every day to go to my studio, and wrote and wrote until I felt like stopping. It all just happened.” And yet, despite its desperation, Rodriguez’s third LP is far from downbeat. Whether she’s dancing, crying, or both—I’m Your Empress Of is the cathartic experience Rodriguez needed in order to move on. “People joke about doing ayahuasca trips and that it’s like six years of therapy,” she says. “In some ways, this record did the same thing for me. It was such a release.” Here, Empress Of guides you through that journey, track by track.

I’m Your Empress Of
“My mom has so much to say, and it felt really good to have her on the album. Here, she just freestyled—my mom has bars! At first she was like, ‘I don’t know what to talk about.’ So I told her, ‘Talk about being a woman. Talk about being an immigrant. Talk about being a mother. Talk about being a lover. Talk about all those things that make you who you are.’ And then she just went for it. On this track, she says, ‘I only have one daughter, but it's like I have thousands of daughters, because look at how many times she reproduced herself in each one of you.’ I love that, because I feel that way when I tour and I go onstage. When people come to my shows, they’re there because these songs have done something for them. When an artist [puts their family on their record], it personalizes it. You get a sense of how that artist grew up and their culture—they want to connect you with who they are.”

Bit of Rain
“I’m the type of artist who listens to records obsessively, which ends up inspiring me. For this song in particular, I was listening to Ace of Base nonstop. I don’t know if anyone can hear it in this song, and if they can’t, that means I’ve been successful in just being inspired. But Ace of Base have incredible melodies. The chords here are simple because I wrote this song on a plane. Sometimes being limited like that does a lot for your creativity. The song is a pop melody and a love song, a word-for-word account of meeting someone new.”

“I was listening to a lot of Scott Walker when I wrote this and the final track ‘Awful,’ because he’d died and I didn’t actually know his music. He had very dramatic melodies, like Gershwin. People might never get my references, but sonically I’ve never done something like this. The chords are weird and the song has jazz elements to it. The vocals in this is all me, but it’s just pitched down, which is something I did a lot with this record—messing with the way vocals are treated and playing with Auto-Tune. This was one of the first breakup songs I wrote after my tour. When I wrote it, I was like, ‘Oh my god, this song is so sad.’ And then I made the beat more lively so that it’s melancholic but you can dance to it.”

Love Is a Drug
“‘Intoxicating’ is a good word for this song. In many ways, it’s a true Empress Of song; it’s at 120 BPM and it’s got classic drum sounds from the ’80s. But it’s back to that desperation I was talking about. When you’re sitting at home alone and you’re like, ‘Who can I text?’ This record shows a lot of different sides to me. ‘Bit of Rain’ is about earnestly meeting someone and feeling something. And then this is like, ‘I’m desperate as fuck.’ I really love all the different areas I go to on this record. I don’t only live in heartbreak, or only in love.”

U Give It Up
“There are only two songs on this record that were produced by other people, and this is one of them. It was made with [LA-based producer and artist] Jim-E Stack, who I love. We’ve been working on stuff together since my last record, and we wrote this song in a day. This one is really crying on the dance floor. But it’s also the song where I haven’t forgotten I can write pop melodies. I started out as an experimental acid type of electronic artist and wrote from this weird perspective. Then I started to collaborate with other artists, and I got over my stigma of pop music, and worked with people like Khalid and MØ. This song is just a true breakup song. I wrote the lyric ‘I feel myself destructing’ and wondered if it was too cheesy. I think a lot of this record is saying things and then being like, ‘Oh, can I get away with saying this?’ And then you're like, ‘Yes, I can,’ because the beat is so tight and the feeling is there. The voice convinces you that it's real.”

“This is a song I could have written on my first album, [2015’s] Me. It’s in a weird time signature instead of the 4/4 that most songs are in, and it’s just repeating a phrase over and over again, which I did a lot on my first record. This song really captured how I felt when I first ended my relationship, when one of the first feelings you have is anger and resentment, and then you start to heal and feel everything else. I worked with [North Carolina producer] BJ Burton on this record, mixing it and executive producing it. The record was so desperate, and we worked on how we could mirror that sonically. So we put a lot of distortion on stuff, and I recorded some vocals in a room with a lot of echo. We kept all those bad takes, because they helped with that sound of grit and desperation. So this song has a lot of that. I was really angry when I wrote it, and I love it because you can hear that in the recording from how messy those vocals are.”

Give Me Another Chance
“This is my favorite song of the record, for sure. It’s the song I played for everyone and they were like, ‘Whoa.’ Because it sounds old and new, it’s an Empress Of song that’s evolved. The song is about asking for someone to come back to me. This is a song where I sang some shit I didn’t want to sing, but it felt really good. The line ‘Choose me over her’ is so fucking desperate. It’s telling someone, ‘I’ll be all the things that you wanted me to be when we were together,’ you know? Just give me another chance. My most desperate hour was writing this song. But I love that I’m talking on it—I’ve never done that and it’s cool that I did it, without it sounding cheesy.”

What’s the Point
“The last half of this record is a little less aggressive. This was the last song I wrote for the album, and it’s about when you’re in a relationship and you’re fighting so much and it’s like, ‘Where’s the border? When is this too much?’ It’s like, ‘You’re clenching your fists. You’re calling me a bitch. Where is the edge?’ Even if some of these songs are about things that are really hard to sing about, about real relationships just destroying you, I’m really happy I did write these songs, because music is so healing for me. I’m singing about something that’s really sad, but the song also has such a gorgeous melody and a gorgeous beat.”

Maybe This Time
“I wrote ‘What’s the Point’ and ‘Maybe This Time’ together. Again, the subject matter is hard, but it’s really good that I wrote these songs. Like I said, it’s about wondering when fighting isn’t going to be enough. I wrote this on a plane, and, like on ‘Bit of Rain,’ I was limited musically with what I could do. But production-wise, I feel like the drums sound really exciting. This is definitely my favorite production on the record.”

Not the One
“From ‘Give Me Another Chance,’ you have four songs in a row that are just like, ‘I feel so shitty. I feel so alone.’ What I say on this track is big. It's like that thing with ‘Love Is a Drug,’ when you're at home alone and you're like, ‘Who can I text? I don't want to be alone right now.’ And that’s something that I did. I was with someone and I was saying the same things to them that I said to an ex. It was making me feel good, but I knew that we weren't going to be in a relationship. I feel like those desperate moments where you slip up and hook up with someone just because you’re lonely aren’t often written about.”

Hold Me Like Water
“In the last 52 minutes of this interview, I’ve gone from talking about listening to Ace of Base to songs about ‘When is this relationship going to destroy me?’! But you know what? That’s the arc of this record. After you go through all this turmoil, you get here. It’s such a breath. And the song has a lot of space, because the instrumentation just builds and builds and builds until you get to the last chorus and get the beat. I wrote this song with my friend [Bleachers live band member and producer] Mikey Freedom Hart, and it’s written with the same feeling of ‘Bit of Rain,’ that falling-in-love moment, those butterflies. It’s about that moment where you’re so in love that you’re over-romanticizing everything. But I think it’s a really beautiful melody and beautiful song. As for the song’s title? It was me really trying to capture sexiness. ‘Hold me like water’ is like holding on to my taste in your mouth. I just wanted to capture a kiss; something that you can’t really hold on to. Something that’s not tangible.”

"This song houses my favorite lyric on the album: ‘I need some help, I need help/I need myself, I need myself.’ Which is similar to something I wrote on my first album, on the song ‘Need Myself.’ When I wrote that lyric, I was going through shit and I just sat in the song. It's a moment where I felt really grateful to have music, because I've found the thing that helps me channel all these feelings. A lot of people don't have that. This album goes through so many things—you’re in love, you’re desperate, you’re having a one-night stand, you’re trying to get back with someone. The most important thing about this album is that it ends on a major chord, which traditionally signifies a happy ending. I just wanted to reference a moment of clarity. And that’s what I hope people feel, among other things. I feel like this is a good album closer.”

I'm Your Empress Of
Bit Of Rain
Love Is A Drug
U Give It Up
Give Me Another Chance
What's The Point
Maybe This Time
Not The One
Hold Me Like Water

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