In the video for E^ST AKA. Mel Bester’s first single Talk Deep off her forthcoming debut album she electrocutes a boy for falling sleep while she’s looking for someone to talk into the late night with. It’s a dark, twisted and comedic turn that taps into her personality more than ever before but it also embraces her youth. It’s an interesting trajectory for Bester who sang on her first ever single, “I’m too old for my skin.”
Bester has only been releasing music for half a decade but we’ve essentially grown up with her. We’ve moved from her teens to her early twenties, exploring a multitude of pop-leaning music stylings along the way. One thing that stands out though is it feels as if she’s grown younger - fitting back into her skin.
Her debut EP Old Age was an intimate, mature set of songs that contemplated her childhood with introspective hindsight. She was in her teens and looking to grow up while also making sense of her upbringing.
The following EP The Alley was a haunting collection of pop songs, exploring social anxiety while also showing off a new-found confidence. By the time she got to Get Money, she was experimenting with woozy electronics and hip-hop-borrowed beats. She was ready, for the first time, to dance and search for euphoria. On Life Goes On, she found it.
Life Goes On felt like a cosmic shift for Bester. She’d found a way to move, liberate and reflect simultaneously. It looked to the future with clarity and marked a new chapter in her career. One that embraced her youth rather than shunning it. It’s a concept that she explored further on last year’s Life Ain’t Always Roses where she detailed friendship, dating and insecurity with stark honesty. She didn’t pretend to have all the answers but when she needed relief she ducked inside her own head like on Heaven On My Mind. Elsewhere, she hugged her Friends and called out dodgy dudes (Blowjob).
We’re all growing older and wiser in theory but as you discover yourself in your formative years, there’s a youthfulness that shines through. You’re surrounded by new people, making mistakes in relationships and trying substances while also attempting to take responsibility for yourself.
That transition has been documented in pop in the past. Lorde’s debut album Pure Heroine looked at the world from a wide-lens. She appeared mature and confident but by the time she got to Melodrama she’d zoned in. Her first major break-up while also discovering the highs and lows of partying led to a raw record that searched for the highs while also dealing with the lows. A similar path was walked by Charli XCX who appeared as a bratty, bombastic popstar on her earlier releases before embracing her flaws and insecurities on the emotional Pop2 and her most recent album Charli.
The point is; in growing up, sometimes you have to go backwards to move forwards. On Talk Deep, Bester is no longer too old for her skin. She’s right in the present moment and she’s having fun with it. “I’m already stoned, you’re getting me higher,” Bester sings over a pulsating dance beat. Jim Eliot, who is responsible for some of the best electro-pop of the decade from Ellie Goulding to Halsey, is on production and he aptly captures both the playfulness and the intensity.
“Talk Deep is about having crazy chemistry with someone and not wanting to miss out on a single second of it... Who needs sleep anyway,” Bester says about the song. She’s perfectly crafted the scene but in a good sign that she’s beginning to play outside the realms of regular pop, she’s delivered a wicked video.
In the video, she builds chemistry with a boy before he falls asleep and she decides to electrocute him. She’s bored. For the remainder of the clip, she puts him in different scenes from the bath to the pool, treating him like a Ken doll. It’s dark comedy at its best and shows that she’s given herself the creative license to really play with her music.
Bester’s music is pop but she also flirts with notions of pop-punk. She’s label mates with Paramore and it makes sense. Over the course of their career, they have moved from emo-punk to pop while maintaining a quirky wickedness. Their last record After Laughter was a colourful, ‘80s-flavoured LP that dealt with darkness with an upbeat sarcasm.
After seeing the Talk Deep clip, it’s easy to imagine Bester is dealing with the obstacles of growing up in a similar way. It’s the eighth track off her forthcoming debut album I’m Doing It which seems to be arriving at the perfect time. She’s flourishing as a pop writer in an era where the genre is encouraging more and more oddballs.
It’s yet to be seen where she’s taking the album, whether we’ll be dancing or crying, but Lorde, Charli and Paramore have proved that you can do both. Bester is subtly positioning herself as Australia’s next big pop export and if she can continue to churn out bangers like Talk Deep then there’s truly no stopping her.