Review: Justine Skye Journeys Through Her Evolution On ‘Emotionally Unavailable’
Nearly two years ago, Justine Skye was simply the 18-year-old itching to make a name for herself outside of the realm of Tumblr. Signing to Atlantic Records, Skye dropped Everyday Living in 2013, her debut EP with love-striken and stay-with-me compositions dedicated to her relationship with, who is now, her ex-boyfriend.
So how does a social media sensation heal, post-public breakup? When Vixen spoke with Justine back in March, she assured fans that her new music wouldn’t be reflective of the state she was in–a doleful teen who experienced love and loss–but was undoubtedly “more empowering.” Tuesday’s (June 23) release of her second EP, Emotionally Unavailable, was just that–heavily coated in liberation and evident of personal growth sans “him.”
Emotionally Unavailable takes listeners through the trajectory of Skye’s healing, initially emerging on the track, “A Train.” Picking up at the close of “Good By Now” [on Everyday Living] where the rising star affirmed uncertainty in her strength, The Kadis and Sean-production finds the songstress’ ironic demands of solitude from her relationship in the busyness that is New York City. The record provides a 90’s R&B feel with Justine airily floating over synths and a light stampede of snares, segueing into another declaration of love for her city and ultimately, herself.
“On & On” opens with echoes of “Where Brooklyn [at]” and serves as your conventional new-age R&B jam, saturated with a hand-clapping beat and molding it as the turn-up song of the EP. What stands out more than the overall production happens at the break with Justine asserting her independence, with bold proclamations that she can “do what [she] wants, say what [she] wants, kiss who [she] wants,” and not “give a f*ck what anyone thinks.” It’s here that we get a shift in both Skye’s musical content and feminine confidence.
What is left to be said about “Bandit,” the Insomniaks-produced song that urban mainstream critics say really put the Tumblr teen on the map? Premiering on MTV and peaking to number eight on Billboard’s Twitter Emerging Artists chart, Justine’s rebellious and swaggy, bad gal vibe makes “Bandit” one of the most prominent singles on the EP. We’re not sure how anyone could’ve missed Skye stamping her mark with “Collide,” but this track cements her place in the R&B sphere–even if she can do without the fame.
One of the strongest singles on Emotionally Unavailable is “Don’t Worry,” Justine’s public service announcement attesting to her newly found fortitude and self-sufficiency. The Queen Unicorn delivers and comes out a champion, taking the high road and offering gratitude to her ex. From “A Train” to this point, it’s clear Skye’s found clarity stemming from that subway ride into the city and has done away with the past. With her repetitious “I’m good” affirmations, “Don’t Worry” leaves behind no traces of pain and proof of a young woman in love with herself.
Randomly recorded interludes flood the EP, strategically placed after every record and offering insight into what’s to come. In “August 24th – Interlude,” we hear Justine and company playfully delve into her age, with the singer noting her adolescence and a mention of her 20th birthday in just two months. The 19-second interlude transitions into “Sugarcoated,” the track Justine calls her favorite on her infamous Tumblr page and we can easily see why. It’s a reflective ballad that exposes Skye’s vulnerability with her singing, “I’m a smart girl, but I did stupid stuff sometimes,” and yet, acknowledging what she wants as a woman. “Sugercoated” is progression for Justine and acts as a sign of her steps towards adulthood. Mentions of alcohol and truth, doing without the BS and wanting to be with someone “like a fool,” makes this one of the best records on Emotionally Unavailable.
“Jamaicans Are Wack” leads into the Justine Skye-Kranium collaborative effort that is “Anticipation.” Proving the title of the aforementioned interlude wrong, the 11th record has a touch of the Caribbean, with the two Jamaican artists in that falling for one another-phase. Skye brazenly admits she “wants it right now,” and the two exchange words over the flirty and mellow record.
The Insomniaks jump back on board and Justine ends her second EP on a high note. “I’m Yours” can easily be described as a snap and sway, summer jam, alongside Roc Nation newbie Vic Mensa, who tones it down to perfectly fit the vibe of the track. Throwing in classic 50 Cent references on an uptempo track, Justine’s closing single is highly infectious. It’s easy to find yourself humming along lyrics and we can already see this as a summer anthem for chicks that are booed up. In the event, Mensa and Skye team up for a video, we picture Vic whispering “don’t be shy, just back it up on me,” in the singer’s ear.
Emotionally Unavailable is a solid body of work from the rising starlet who promises to drop more heat, including her debut LP, soon. The EP is an upward flow of change for Justine, who embarks on her journey in Brooklyn and ends up somewhere in America, on a high and evolving before our eyes.