Emily Keener‘s “Do You Love Me Lately?” is the first track off of her upcoming project, I Do Not Have to Be Good, and it is, in fact, very good.
Perceptible or not, Emily Keener has lived in the cultural collective consciousness for years. She’s toured with greats like Jessica Lea Mayfield, played on records for Midwestern mainstays such as The Womacks, and turned all four chairs on The Voice, earning her a spot as Pharrell‘s mentee. Now, with the upcoming release of her sophomore album I Do Not Have to Be Good, Keener is seeking to prove that she is enough on her own.
“Do You Love Me Lately?,” the first single off of her new venture, is a pensive exploration of lost love. Powered by the same nostalgia that has led Sharon Van Etten to recent (renewed) success, Keener doesn’t shy away from digging into the past. The song is carefully constructed, quiet chaos, communicating feelings of sleeplessness, loneliness, and uncertainty. She begins with a familiar scene, “She wore her T-shirt inside out / I must’ve worn her down / ‘Cause we danced in her kitchen to all of Blue / And she let me stick around.” The song continues, documenting a relationship that ended in heartbreak. She explores the breakup through small details, as she sings about “sleeping on a clean sheet again” after the object of affection “took a plane outta town.” The narrative is compelling, rife with specific details that root the lyrics in reality. Low-key guitar riffs and muffled drums add to the moody atmosphere.
Keener‘s older tunes– specifically on her 2016 debut album Breakfast— can come off overproduced, even stiff. This rigidness is absent on “Do You Love Me Lately?,” which immediately establishes itself as an off-the-cuff overhaul of Emily Keener‘s previous sound. This new casual approach suits the artist. Whether this is the sign of a new page for the artist or simply an extension of broader trends already present within her corner of the industry is yet to be made clear.
When speaking about the track, Emily Keener reflected on previous creative experiences, “I was learning from people I really admired, and those early experiences left me with a deeper understanding of how to use the studio as an instrument and breathe life into recordings.” She also hinted about her new direction, adding, “It paved the way for me to call the shots and make creative decisions with confidence.” This shift in control is obvious, and the passion that’s present in “Do You Love Me Lately?” is electrifying. Looking towards the release of I Do Not Have to Be Good, Keener will have an opportunity to show us more of what happens when she takes the wheel. Listeners can look forward to a beautiful drive.