If you’ve waded through enough Spotify indie music radios, you may have heard of Samia. She first hit the scene in 2017 with three deft singles that had no direct ties to one another, ranging from “Welcome to Eden,” a folk ballad painted with broad strokes of biblical imagery, to “Someone Tell the Boys,” a quintessential indie-pop banger. The latter’s unlikely placement on a curated Spotify playlist caught the attention of Twitter, catapulting Samia to wider recognition. Over the last three years, she has maintained a steady presence with singles that hop across the broad spectrum of indie-rock. Despite the wide variance between singles, Samia’s clear knack for poignant storytelling is consistent across every track.
Samia’s debut full-length album The Baby is the litmus test for the trajectory of her work. Though never grandiose or quite in-your-face with her instrumentals, The Baby is notably sparser and a lot softer than any of her former tracks. Songs are carried by a gentle guitar, drum set and keyboard. The occasional airy synth flickers throughout tracks as well. However, The Baby never feels underdeveloped or lacking; just as much as the instruments simmer and fade out, they layer on top of each other to create a bolder, fuller sound. Samia’s vocals and lyrics ebb and flow with the emotional potency of her storytelling. The sensitive, minimalistic approach to music ultimately places Samia’s honey-rich voice and lyrics at the forefront.
The album’s title is likely a nod to the cutesy, infantilizing internet meme “I’m Baby.” Take it from Samia hereself: “I am the baby,” she said in an interview with Vice. “Part of the story of this album emotionally was accepting that I need people.”
Throughout The Baby, Samia explores this desire for care and company on a personal level, dog-earing significant memories, fears and emotions scattered across her early adulthood. The first 30 seconds of the opener “Pool” are quiet until the fuzzy voice of Samia’s late grandmother begins to sing a Lebanese lullaby in Arabic. The tranquil energy of this introduction is immediately contrasted by distorted warbled vocals that detail the fear of dependency and then conjure up the imagery of being underwater. This opener captures the ongoing tension of the entire album: Even with the certainty of unconditional love from many sources, we often strive for love and acceptance in places where it’s unavailable.
The Baby is ultimately an album about how and where relationships fall apart. Samia’s desire for intimacy often destroys her relationships with others and draws out feelings of loss, self-doubt and the desire for others’ acceptance. It never feels pathetic or self-loathing, though. On the sardonic indie rocker “Fit N Full,” Samia explores body image expectations through the lens of someone who obliges to them with comical confidence, proclaiming “If you want, I can take it off / And show you what my mama gave me / It’s so hot in this restaurant / I might just get fully naked.”
“Limbo Bitch” is in the same vein, as Samia feigns complete self-confidence and independence to — ironically enough — win over a potential lover. Admittedly, these themes have been revisited time and time again, and the sarcastic nature of the songs are nothing new or thought-provoking. Nonetheless, the production is seamless and these fun-loving, upbeat tracks add some peppy energy to the album.
Samia’s strengths on The Baby lie where she is most willing to be vulnerable and honest. She tells her stories with crystal clear, painstaking details, often veering into the metaphysical realm. On “Does Not Heal,” she ties the concept of mental healing to physical healing, recounting the time she cut her leg on a fence. She paints this image with excruciating detail, remembering being “so scared I had tetanus / I checked on it every night / Purple and yellow / The pregnable skin was so coarse and tight.” Similarly, “Waverly” is personal in its specificity: Waverly is a friend Samia wanted to make at a restaurant she used to frequent when she was younger. She offers grotesque images as explanation for her not feeling like herself: “I’m a patron dressed up like a person / I’m a creature instead of me.” The production on this track is also some of the most sparse yet elegant on the entire album, with blossoming, fluttering synths and simple keys.
The Baby is a stunning debut LP from Samia. By personalizing the universal trials and tribulations of early adulthood, Samia makes an album that speaks to the unique situation of a generation that blossoms into adulthood at a time of uncertainty. In 36 minutes, Samia manages to meander through a range of emotions and experiences that detail uncertainty, wavering self-esteem and the complexities of blossoming relationships. Samia accomplishes this successfully through her willingness to be vulnerable and let her lyrics take the lead.