From start to finish, A Girl Cried Red is decisively emo. Even the title is a slightly edited line from the post-hardcore band Dance Gavin Dance’s 2010 track ‘The Robot With Human Hair. It’s a definite move away from Princess Nokia’s debut mixtape ‘1992’, replacing the sonic variation with a solid, more traditional sound.
Listeners should know what to expect from the first track, Flowers and Rope, which is full of lyrics that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Evanescence song, such as ‘It won’t even hurt, I’m already dead (I’m already dead). These very obvious and pronounced themes continue, with Your Eyes are Bleeding detailing her depression and demons over a cloud trap beat that compliments the intimate topic, although the lack of any strong writing does start to become apparent. Following it is ‘For the Night’, which feels redundant as it’s placed so close to Your Eyes are Bleeding, which sounds incredibly similar in topic, flow and beat. There’s nothing inherently bad about it, but the songs jostle against each other, trying to get their chance to be remembered, and ultimately it ends up sounding like a six minute track rather than two separate three minute songs.
Geographically, the album beings to peak as listeners pace their way to the halfway mark, Look Up Kid. It’s an anxious, erratic homage to artists like Paramore, with chunky guitar riffs and delicately sung vocals that aren’t dissimilar to the younger sounding delivery that Nokia showcased on tracks like Kitana. There’s a careful blend of singing and rapping, just as there is on her prior projects, but the change in flows that Nokia is clearly capable of is absent. Where she previously juggled a deep, husky voice with a gossamery, girly sound on 1992, we’re left with a more cohesive, if bland, set of vocals on this project.
There’s a pause in the form of a guitar interlude before Morphine begins. If Taking Back Sunday and Lil Peep had created a song together, it would likely be Morphine, which has angsty themes of heartbreak and modern references to lean running throughout. Nokia’s strengths lie within her creativity, and Morphine doesn’t play to that well, and her melodic flow can feel a little lost behind the beat, making it one of the weaker tracks on the mixtape. At the Top feels identical in tone, and ends up sharing the same weaknesses as the track it follows. While listeners may appreciate the sorrowful sentiment behind the closing track, Little Angel, which is seemingly a tribute to a friend or sibling that has been lost, the lyrics lack nuance or any strong imagery, which is a theme that is unfortunately consistent throughout the mixtape.
A Girl Cried Red is disappointing. With no features, and some of Nokia’s most honest lyrics yet, there was serious potential for a release that would connect with listeners and fans on a more intimate level, yet the short project feels clinical and cold. The creativity and personality that we saw on tracks such as Tomboy and Dragons is missing, and while it’s an interesting delve into a different genre, 1992 was more daring, more original and more Princess Nokia. It’s a project that’s certainly listenable, if you have no expectations.