The subtle crush. The reciprocity. The perfect date. The walls around your heart slowly receding. The full on infatuation. The carnal connection. The imperfection. The dark descent. The ultimatum. The separation. The devastation. The peace. Syd, the impossibly cool writer, producer, and frontwoman of the beloved alt-R&B band The Internet, masterfully dictates the evolution of a failed coupling on Broken Hearts Club, her second solo endeavor. Syd’s sound is often atmospheric, and she knows it. “I think a lot of people would agree that my voice and my music share a similar energy of Sunday cleaning music, or ‘Let’s light the incense and candles and have some wine’ music,” she told Rolling Stone. “It just kind of fits a certain mood.” In turn, Broken Hearts Club is magnificently scored and could fill a room of romantic company with swirling ambiance. Yet, it is also expertly sequenced, as good of a story as it is a backdrop.
Around the start of the pandemic, Syd found herself with an album full of sanguine love songs that no longer resonated with her. A searing split with a long-term partner in a world of isolation pushed her to add more to the project that reflected the relationship’s end. She could have just as easily started over, reverted back to the more hedonist tone of her 2017 debut Fin, or made a project more fitting of the name Broken Hearts Club. Surprisingly, most of the album she settled on doesn’t languish in heartbreak. Instead, it delights in the splendor of new love, even if it does so apprehensively. The Smino-assisted single “Right Track” is rejuvenating and upbeat, with a jolting guitar riff and a warm sense of relief. “Don’t you love it when things go right?” Syd sings airily.
By the album’s center, its protagonist has gone from cautiously falling in love to full-on plummeting. Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, famed collaborator to Syd’s R&B foremothers Brandy, Monica, and Mariah Carey, among many more, produced and co-wrote “Control” with Syd; it’s where her craven adulation is made clear. “You kiss my neck, I melt away,” she says over frenetic percussive flourishes that sound like they’re nearly tripping over themselves. “Control” is immediately reminiscent of Aaliyah’s “One in a Million,” now a familiar sonic touchstone after being resuscitated by acts like Tink and Normani. The production on Broken Hearts Club dances through more decades, from the splashes of reverberated drums on “CYBAH,” to the passionate electric guitar solo on “Fast Car” to the modern 808s on “Tie the Knot.” Syd’s careful manipulation of musical eras emphasizes the timeless love story she weaves.
Syd is formally inducted into the album’s titular club with the help of Internet bandmate Steve Lacy, who produced the downcast “BMHWDY,” a song where Syd sings of familiar romantic decimation: “I deleted all your pictures/You wanna stay friends and that’s big a ya/But girl I can’t get witcha.” It’s the creeping complications before this point — in songs like “Out Loud” where she pines for public affection, or “Heartfelt Freestyle” where Syd craves reassurance over a jazzy sample of Kruangbin’s “White Glove” — that feel the most relatable. Meaningful relationships don’t just fall apart. They erode. Guided by Syd’s laudable ear and angelic voice, Broken Hearts Club succeeds in sewing a narrative of love grown and wilted.