Crossovers and hybrids have been spiking in popularity lately across the western music world, but there haven’t been many artists that have really astonished me in their stylistic experimentations as Alexis Keegan has in the brand new single “What Am I Supposed to Do.” For those who aren’t aware, Keegan is an indie R&B/soul singer who has cut a handful of minor hits in the underground over the last few years to increasing acclaim from critics and fans. In “What Am I Supposed to Do,” she abandons the poppier elements in her craftsmanship and adopts more straightforward jazz tones that are sporty, indulgent, and quite complementary of her seductive singing style.
This single is constructed using a rather anti-formulaic approach to the chorus, but it doesn’t sacrifice any instrumental textures in exchange for its surreal design. The bassline is big, bold, and plays as much of a part in making the words evocative as Keegan’s vocal execution does. The piano is the second star of the song after the sizzling serenade driving the main melody, and it gives the grooving drums a pristine harmony to chase after in the verses. There’s a lot of layers to it, but “What Am I Supposed to Do” plays out seamlessly every time I give it a listen.
Keegan doesn’t go with particularly enigmatic lyricism in this song, and in the place of postmodern metaphors we instead find straightforward, earnest admissions about love, life and the struggle to balance the two successfully. She’s getting pretty raw with us poetically in “What Am I Supposed to Do,” but I never feel like she’s being self-absorbed in her statements at all whatsoever. Anyone who has ever been depressed from the damages that romance can inflict has the potential to relate to this single, and as much as mainstream publications might say otherwise, that isn’t all that common in American pop music anymore.
The instrumental portion of “What Am I Supposed to Do” is sublimely subtle in its moodiness, but make no mistake about it – the sonic smokescreen between the sharply appointed lyrics and the bipolarity in the music doesn’t stop the melodies from defining the very nature of this single. Alexis Keegan is a force to be reckoned with when she’s in charge of the microphone, but she’s on an equal playing field with the backing band in this song. There’s different emotional subtexts being fired at us from every direction in “What Am I Supposed to Do,” making this an interpretive single that is accessible to most anyone who enjoys a tender tunefulness.
There are lots of reasons to be excited for the new music we’re slated to hear in 2019, and Alexis Keegan’s latest release is definitely one of them. Keegan is blending styles like an OG in “What Am I Supposed to Do” and not exhibiting any inhibition or fragmentation in her sound as a result – something that a lot of her closest rivals could currently only hope for. She’s roused my interest from a critical perspective, and I’m eager to hear how she develops her musical profile further as the 2020’s roll around.
Photo by Merideth Carlson