Liner Notes: ‘Gemini Rights’ reminds us of our bad habits in love amid funky atmosphere


Graphic by Olivia Abeyta

Steve Lacy’s funky instrumentals and impressive vocals show his prowess at making old musical styles and lyrical themes feel oh-so new again on “Gemini Rights.”

Audrey Hettleman, Managing Editor

“Gemini Rights,” Steve Lacy’s newest psychedelic pop project, is worth a listen for every R&B or soul fan.

Lacy’s funky instrumentals and impressive vocals show his prowess at making old musical styles and lyrical themes feel oh-so new again on his sophomore album. Released Friday, the album contains 10 tracks filled with emotion, which Lacy said are “the only real things sometimes” in an artist statement for Apple Music.

The Compton-based musician brings these emotions in spades, showing even within a single song how conflicting feelings can intersect and coexist, against our best intentions.

“The biggest lesson I learned at the end of this album process was how small we make love,” Lacy said in the statement. “I want to love unconditionally now. I will make love bigger, not smaller.”

That love can definitely be felt in songs such as “Give You the World,” a sultry jam you could put on the record player as you slow dance in the kitchen. With gorgeous vocals that invoke Prince and early Frank Ocean, this song gives a vintage filter to love.

“Amber” echoes this energy with a consistent piano melody that at times takes on an almost theatrical feel.

Not every song on the album looks at love through rose-colored glasses, however. “Sunshine” featuring Foushée examines a love story through the conversational verses of an on-again, off-again couple. Along with an ethereal chorus, “Sunshine” recounts both the annoyances and fondness that make up any modern relationship, seeing bickering develop into rekindled passion.

A prime example of conflicting emotions comes from “Mercury,” which features dichotomous lyrics set against a bossa nova instrumental. “Little of heaven, little unpleasant / I don’t know / Little of pressure, little depression / I don’t know,” Lacy sings. Touching on regret, longing and unease, the listener can easily connect with Lacy’s musings on navigating a relationship.

While the ethereal theme worked well in many songs, it was not always enjoyable. In “Cody Freestyle,” the intro and first verse left me waiting for a beat drop that never came. Instead, Lacy stayed in his falsetto with reverbed tracks as accompaniment to the point that it almost felt grating on the ears. The song could have used drums or a baseline to complement its ethereal qualities, and it ultimately felt out of place and unfinished. In other songs, some lyrics also left something to be desired. Some felt less-than-complete, almost placeholders in songs that would have benefited from a bit more development.

Despite its flaws, “Gemini Rights” is worth a listen. Its funkadelic energy and earnest, sultry lyrics shine in its hit single, “Bad Habit.” This is one song you can’t help but sing along to. The song gives a new spin on the “right place, wrong time” trope in a way that fully shows emotions at their peaks and valleys. Lacy’s raw vocals are allowed to shine in the last minute or so of the song as the refrain which includes “You can’t surprise a Gemini” is repeated until its close.

As the album’s title would suggest, “Gemini Rights” features a wide variety of perspectives on navigating lust, love and relationships. If you thought you knew what to expect from Lacy, think again — as he sings in “Mercury,” “You think I’m two-faced, I can name twenty-three.” Featuring multiple genres, varied perspectives of song subjects, and lyrics that reflect his his queer and Black identities, Lacy’s complex persona and musical style is on full display in this album.

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Twitter: @AudreyHettleman 

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