Lauren Aquilina – Deaf Institute
As well as being a passionate music reviewer, I am also part of many “fandoms”. Fandoms are basically kingdoms of fans – ranging from Sherlockians (Sherlock fans) to Swifties (Taylor Swift fans).
One fandom I have joyfully been a part of since around 2016 has been Lauren Aquilina’s. I’d seen her name floating about on twitter previously but had never had the chance to check her music out. And boy, was I in for a surprise! I loved her elegant, passionate song writing skills, as well as how she uses twitter as a platform to tweet ordinary things she is doing.
I was ecstatic when I managed to get tickets for Lauren’s show in Manchester. The moments I love most about seeing an artist live are firstly, when they first appear and you think “Wait, they’re actually real? These people who I’ve cried to in my darkest, loneliest times to danced about in my room to in my happiness actually EXIST?!” and when you make eye contact with them.
The set began with “Wicked Game”, a song of Lauren’s only (so far) album, “Isn’t It Strange?”. Lauren is absolutely beautiful, her mindset is firmly on performing to her adoring crowd and her voices floats effortly to falsetto and back. The song is incredibly relatable for those who have gone through heartbreak and/or depression: “He said he didn’t do commitment with tattoos on his skin” to “I’ve been thinking ‘bout death but I’ll hold my breath.”
Next up is “Hurt Any Less”, another poppy, yet mellow song from her album and also my favourite. Lauren used all of the stage space she could, not limiting herself to one spot and genuinely seemed to be enjoying herself. “Hurt Any Less”’s narrative is that of one that details how you know a love is going to fall apart, but you go for it anyway and it “doesn’t hurt any less”. My favourite line has to be “This was never love, it was chaos”. Again, her vocals are outstanding and passionate.
Lauren then took a sip of water and declared to the crowd, “I’m exhausted” and that she should “probably go to the gym”, referring back to when she “retired” from music (but now luckily seems to have de-retired). She is personable and more self-deprecating humour is used throughout the night, with the audience laughing with her, not at her.
The opener of her album is played next, “Midnight Mouths”, where Lauren moves over to a small keyboard. Most of her songs are piano based and it definitely helps to emphasis the raw emotion in her songs. Favourite lyrics include, “Can’t you see you mess with my head just because you can?” and “I wish that what you said was true but it’s not reality”. So far the songs have been cohesive, and then we move on to Lauren’s most recent songs, which demonstrate how versatile she is.
“If Looks Could Kill” is, as we would say on twitter, a “bop”. Lauren’s attitude in this resonates throughout the room; people of all ages and genders singing this powerful anthem. She’s extremely confident in this one. The song’s narrative is easily explained in the first line of the chorus: “If looks could kill, I think that you’d be dead by now”.
Lauren then talks to the crowd again, which is good because none of us can get enough of this performance. She talks and jokes about her natural tendency to write songs about depression. It’s good to see this being talked about openly, and as a musician myself, it resonates strongly.
Next is “How Would You Like It?”, in which Lauren personally says was about how an ex boyfriend went out, kissed someone else and got back into bed with Lauren. It’s a tale I’m sure most of us have either gone through or know someone who has. It’s one of her best lyrical works, with emotional vocals to accompany them, “Who said that you decide how I feel?” and “Who said I didn’t have the strength to leave?”
Excitingly for us, Lauren plays a new song next, which will also be her next single, “Tobacco On My Sheets”, which is basically a letter to her mum talking about heartbreak. Catchy, heartbreaking and familial, the undertones of desperation and love only emphasize Lauren’s rare musicianship. Outstanding lyrics include “I know you won’t be proud”, “he’s a pretty good distraction but he’s not a fraction of the one before”. (Applogies if the last lyric quoted is slightly wrong!)
“King” is an older, but still relatable, song based around depression, with imagery about wearing your “crown”, persuading the listener to believe the monsters in our head won’t always control us.
Lauren holds nothing back in “Fools”, a song about falling in love with your best friend, which she says she does “all the time”. This is a staple song in Lauren’s fans’ catalogue. It’s romantic and devastating in equal measures.
“Psycho” ends the roughly hour set, tremendous, funky drums filling the institute. Lauren is simply captivating – it’s clear to see why she released this relatable, dark-humoured song.
It was an exciting, personable evening and I would definitely see Lauren Live again.
Words Emma Stevens