Canadian pop artist Ralph has been growing in popularity since her first single was released in 2015. The artist released her debut album, A Good Girl, this past September — ten songs of catchy synth-pop with disco and R&B influences examining all kinds and all sides of relationships.
Ralph has been consistent in both style and theme since her self-titled EP, but she says the question of how to talk about “the same thing everyone’s talked about a million times over” is constantly on her mind. While the EP focuses on her perspective as a victim in relationships, Ralph says the album takes a more complex outlook, as is reflected in its title.
“Everyone is guilty of hurting others, and that’s what makes us human — I wanted to explore the part of relationships that people don’t want to talk about,” Ralph said. “That’s the point of the album name A Good Girl. It’s tongue-in-cheek because no one is good or bad — we are too complex to be one or the other.”
Ralph sees this added complexity as beneficial for the album’s universality — everyone has done both good and bad things. One of her goals is to make her songs relatable, in everything from the themes employed to the pronouns she uses.
“I try to write narratives that feel close to life, that we’ve all been through. I don’t want anyone listening to feel like they can’t relate to the song,” Ralph said. “For instance, in “Bedroom Eyes” I don’t use any [gendered] pronouns, because I want the song to be about anybody — any two people in the world who just want to dance.”
Relatability sometimes comes at the expense of authenticity. To prevent this, Ralph says she follows her instincts. She received negative feedback, however, for “Cereal,” the last song on the album — the song revolves around the image of her crying into her morning cereal, which is perhaps not a very universal experience.
Ralph says she stands by her lyrics — this highly personal level of specificity is what makes her able to capture an overall mood rather than an experience.
“It’s more about when you are heartbroken and you are trying to do those things you do every day, and all of a sudden, that routine is interrupted by this random outburst of emotion — that’s more what I’m trying to target,” Ralph said. “Maybe it’s too specific, but isn’t that what makes a song interesting? There’s a fine line that I’m still trying to find — following my gut but not being confusing.”
The album follows a clear narrative, another constant in her work. Ralph says these ten songs show the development of a relationship, from start to finish. The first song — a tune about self-love and being enough for yourself — might seem out of place within the album’s thematic narrative, but Ralph says that it’s a bit like a disclaimer — a statement before the rest of the record plays out.
“I wanted to start off the album with “For Yourself” to say that, even though a lot of the songs are about love, the best and most important love is with yourself,” Ralph said. “I love being alone, and I love being independent — I’ve always encouraged others to explore that.”
The album then goes on to explore long-distance relationships, power dynamics, desire and mental illness, among other topics, before ending — both the album and the relationship it’s about — on “Cereal.” It’s a seemingly bitter ending, but Ralph doesn’t see it that way.
“‘Cereal,’ to me, is a song that isn’t devastating. It’s raw, but it’s open-ended,” Ralph said. “You know when a season in a TV series ends with a ‘what’s gonna happen next’? I wanted ‘Cereal’ to be like that. It’s the end of season one — what will happen in season two?”
What’s next for Ralph? After touring extensively, both within and outside of Canada, she says that she is looking forward to her next album.
“All of a sudden, I’ve been writing song ideas down. I can’t stop these lyrics from coming out,” Ralph said. “When you write an album, towards the end of it, you start feeling like you’ve spent so many months in a studio, exhausted, but when you’ve been out of the studio for a while, you miss it.”
Before going back to recording, Ralph has a tour to finish. Her Saskatoon show at Louis’ Pub was part of her
Canada-wide tour and featured accompanying pop singer Ria Mae and EDM band Neon Dreams. The tour will come to an end on Dec 15 in Kingston, ON.
Ralph says touring has been good for her songwriting — she’ll tackle her next album with excitement and new ideas.
“Both [Mae and Neon Dreams] are really good at catchy hooks, and they’ve inspired me to pick more universal lines — see how to create a Ralph song that still feels Ralph but also feels like it could be a big radio hit,” Ralph said. “Maybe that’s why I’ve been writing so many songs — because I’m around people who are excited about music.”
Ana Cristina Camacho / Staff Writer
Photo: Wednesday Management / Supplied