how to stop hating urself pt. 1 paints LA-based phem as everything a rising star should be; on-the-pulse, transparent, and impossible to stop listening to.
In 2020 self love became more important than ever. Cut off from our usual methods for blowing off steam – whether that was playing gigs, power walking in the park, or raving – people around the world looked inwards. phem, an LA-based artist who released her latest EP how to stop hating urself pt. 1 in December, was no different.
Though the EP barely cracks 15 minutes, to a score of fans it stands out as one of the records that seems to most brutally define the year we left behind. phem’s philosophy on taking care of yourself comes not through pseudoscience, the next in-vogue hobby, or a jungle of indoor plants, but in coming to terms with yourself. Ugly bits and all.
“I couldn’t think of a better EP title for 2020″, shared phem in December.
“This project is more than the music, it’s been a growing experience for myself, my fans and my whole team. At the end of the day all I want to do is help people, and make them feel less alone by sharing my own feelings and experiences. If I can do that we’ve succeeded.”
Through a squeaky-clean alt-pop lens, phem delivers verse after verse of introspective hot takes. Sometimes you feel as if she’s speaking to a friend or lover, sometimes herself, sometimes her fans; the lot of it intertwining into an amorphous lesson for all to hear.
On the EP’s opening track honest, featuring iann dior and produced by Internet Money’s Taz Taylor, she sings “when things get dark I’ll help you turn on the lights”. phem’s strategy isn’t to subdue or run from the darkness of mental health or the constant bursts of negativity delivered from world news and online hate, but to face it head on and come out on top.
There’s no highlight on how to stop hating urself pt. 1, it’s an extremely cohesive body of work where every song is as good as the next. useless is a short ballad about feeling incomplete, Self Control hears phem begging for just a pinch of inhibition.
stfu with ur self help shit, roll me a blunt & lemme handle it
— phem (@phem4evr) January 15, 2021
As a character she’s hard to drag your ear away from, wearing her faults on sleeve with the same confidently-unconfident approach we’ve seen from artists such as Phoebe Bridgers or Princess Nokia. Not to mention Thom Yorke – phem covered perhaps the greatest “I’m a weirdo” anthem of all time in early 2020 with total bravado.
how to stop hating urself pt. 1 followed on from a mighty year from phem, including collaborations with Travis Barker, Grandson, and Alison Wonderland. The latter was particularly great – an ode to Tiger King star Carole Baskin, dropped at the height of the show’s power in April 2020.
WWCBD stands for What Would Carole Baskin Do and… it’s brilliant. You’ll just have to give it a listen:
how to stop hating urself pt. 1 is out now via Caroline International. Stream or download the EP here.