Miss Universe is impossible to place. Wafts of Amy Winehouse, something of The Strokes. As with King Krule, Nilüfer Yanya is indie pop with an edge and an incredible voice. Drifting effortlessly through upbeat tempos - a parody of chart music - and into her characteristic riffage. Genre-hopping doesn’t quite do her justice: swerving u-turns and backflips are far more accurate.
The album unfolds as a sci-fi correspondence with a fictionalised wellness hotline: “welcome to WWAY HEALTH™, our 24/7 care program. We are here for you; we care for you; we worry about you so you don't have to.” The robotised voice serves as a strange commentary on break-up feels. At one point the listener is told to don blast-proof clothing to avoid their limbs melting.
This bizarre conceptual theme is sure to resonate with the Black Mirror generation. Although, it’s a move I’m still on the fence about. On the one hand, the interjections of syrupy, telecommunication paint a disturbing portrait of space-age biopolitics. On the other, this fantasy isn’t grounded or relevant. Nilüfer’s reflective, real-life entanglements are far more interesting.
Miss Universe’s press shot cast the young songstress as Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits, standing in an arid desert with a McDonald’s drink carton in hand. I picture her in a Vegas casino, smoking cigarettes and casting cards to pay off credit card debt. Off-era glamour has solidified her style. She’s clearly much more at home as a sultry, wronged lover affecting clipped Londoner dialogue than as a secretarial astronaut. Where’s the gambling, loser ex-boyfriend narrative which contextualised ‘Thanks 4 Nothing’?
Storyline aside, there are moments in Miss Universe which shine. ‘Melt’ is beautifully produced, harmonised with a rich saxophone solo and distorted vocalisations. Single ‘Heavyweight Champion of the Year’ transposes a punk vibe as Nilüfer breaks and squeaks her voice through the words “WIRED” and “TIRED”. A glimmer of vulnerability breaks through in ‘Angels’ where she softly sings “Got to learn / Got to realize what this means / Got to decide / Figure out who to please”. These are the thoughts of a rising star in conflict, cast into fame and figuring the world out. Whilst Whinehouse was defined by her jolting, bare all personality and Krule wrote a spiralling album about narcotics, Nilüfer holds back, unsure of how much of herself to reveal.