by Emma Turney
Just a year after her underwhelming debut album, Bishop Briggs is back with the same sound, a bit more polish, and a lot more intrigue. London born Sarah McLaughlin’s first full-length release with Island Records, Church of Scars, came off of the major success of its lead single, “River.” However, the full-length disappointed with predictable lyrics and messy production. Just over a year later, Briggs redeems herself with the release of her second album, CHAMPION. CHAMPION is a break up album with just enough honest vulnerability and strength to cement Briggs as the CHAMPION of this story.
Opening the album with the 1:20 minute track “I STILL LOVE YOU,” Briggs contrasts intense vulnerability with strong, raspy vocals. However, the track ends up not being interesting enough to succeed as such a short song. A better opener to the record would be “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW,” which is powerful, angry, and demanding. Briggs speaks of a lost lover when she says she “wishes you could hold me” but still persists that this is the “last time that you let me down.”
Briggs succeeds most fully when she uses the inherent emotion behind her undeniable voice to convey a story of simultaneous fragility and perseverance. But, similarly to Church of Scars, there are still moments on CHAMPION when songwriting fails Briggs, they are just less frequent than in her debut. The title single, “CHAMPION,” is a less interesting, more cliche version of “Roar” by Katy Perry. The cringey, predictable statements are in full force here. “You gotta get bruised before you get mad /You gotta fall down before you fight back /Was feeling so weak but baby I’m strong.”. Slightly less annoying are the awkward tongue in cheek references on “JEKYLL & HIDE.” The only reason this track becomes a bit more acceptable is because it includes the album’s hardest hitting production, with animalistic growls that somehow work. But when you reach the chorus and Briggs seriously says “are you Jekyll and hiding me?” it is impossible not to laugh.
More often than not Briggs creates something that is both incredibly catchy and motivating. “TATTOOED ON MY HEART” seems to be the stand out track on the record with lyrics that sum up Briggs’ breakup. “It’s always you taking me for granted / Always you that plays me as the fool.” The combination of constant clapping, stomping, and humming suggests that this will be a live show staple. Following this accusatory track is the most somber song of the album, “SOMEONE ELSE.” The pairing of the two songs makes sense as CHAMPION continually suggests that even in the midst of finding herself after her breakup, her ex is still making Briggs question her self-worth.
“MY SHINE” ends up being the most interesting part of CHAMPION, with the heaviest pop production and the angriest lyrics on the record. When the chorus hits and Briggs shouts, “Yeah, that’s my shine / Yeah, that’s my precious little golden lie / Not yours, it’s mine,” it’s hard not to feel inspired by her new-found self-love.
If there is one takeaway from the evolution of Bishop Briggs over the past year and a half, it is that she remains committed to her unique sound while still improving it with every release. There’s no denying that Briggs is a powerful force in the music industry, and her strength is most believable when she lays her emotions out in full honesty.