Commonly compared to a young Madonna, Aleksandra Denton (as Shura) is, in personality, much more inconspicuous. With a sweet demeanor and dyed ends, Denton blends in with today’s alternative crowd. And her brand of bedroom pop, much like that of Grimes or Zola Jesus, though in a different style, is a highly-accessible alternative to the mainstream genre.
She’s already seen major success with 2014 video, “Touch,” and her latest, “What’s It Gonna Be?” is quickly climbing to near one million views since its release early June. The impressive attention might be attributable to the nostalgia surrounding Nothing’s Real, out last Friday via Interscope / Polydor. Her pop influences, spanning from Gwen (especially on title track, “Nothing’s Real”) to Britney (on the break-up ballad “Kidz N Stuff”), really sparkle on a debut album that glitters. That, or the influence of Madonna has permeated through the generations.
Nothing’s Real is bissected with two lo-fi breakers: “(i)” and “(ii),” the latter of which features a recording of dialogue between a young girl and an older male figure. They set the tone simply as hazy and a little ungrounded, but in familiar sounds and feelings.
She’s recorded as wanting to appear unexpected, and after White Light, an EP centered around mature relationships, Nothing’s Real first chapter, the six tracks bordered by “(i)” and “(ii)” are surprisingly innocent and naive. “Kidz N Stuff” begins with “I was supposed to meet you at 6 o’clock” and unravels into what appears to have once been a one-sided relationship. Even for a skeptic, it’s heartbreaking the way Britney’s “Lucky” is. Similarly, “What Happened to Us?” gives a floaty, wanton narrative. However, it marks the end of the first chapter by coming to terms with a former lover. “No, I’m no child but I don’t feel grown up,” she confesses. Then speculating,
You were somebody to me once
But now you’re a fiction
Someone that I made up
Turns out it was too much for us
And if we met in five years, would we notice?
The last four tracks, starting with “Tongue Tied,” seem to originate from a later time in Shura’s coming-of-age. They’re edgier, dancier, and have a little tongue-in-cheek fun. The relationships are no longer doe-eyed, but practical arrangements. In a way, she’s traded young infatuation with the practical, less-intimate reality of new adulthood.
In two parts, Nothing’s Real encapsulates lyrically and sonically the insecurities of a new digital generation. Shura uses the royal we well, and we’re right there with her, stumbling through short-lived relationships, sloppy nights out, and the emotionally empty streets at night, realizing we can only “Make It Up” as we go.
Article by Joanna Jiang