There’s not as much simplicity in the pop genre as there ought to be in 2021, and for all I know this is one of the facts motivating Cat Ridgeway to make a profoundly straightforward style of music with her career. Ridgway’s last album, Nice to Meet You, caught my ear in 2020 amidst a pandemic that had essentially drowned out a lot of the vitality from her peers primarily because of its buoyant tracklist and fearlessly acerbic narratives, and of its seven songs, lead single “Sweet Like Candy” remains a personal favorite. A new music video for the track recently dropped to the pleasure of fans everywhere, and to me, it solidifies everything I already thought about this gifted singer and songwriter.
The construct here is retro through and through, bringing to mind the efficient songcraft of Melanie Safka right off the top. It’s not punchy like Meghan Trainor, but the same appreciation for classic vocal pop themes is undeniably present in this single. Ridgeway never sounds hesitant nor like she’s trying to replicate something that she grew up listening to on her parents’ vinyl collection; instead, she’s throwing herself into this groove like her heart’s fate depends on it.
Swing is kind in “Sweet Like Candy,” and I don’t think that the hook in this single would have the kind of accessible profile that it does were the percussion not attacking the bassline with as much panache as it does around the climax of the song. This is a singer who needs something to build towards in a track, especially one with an ascending harmony as sharply-tuned and unassumingly seductive as this single’s is, and she sounds like she’s found the perfect way to scale a chorus without coming off like someone with something to prove still.
Ridgeway’s music video for “Sweet Like Candy” is lovingly DIY but not to the point of feeling like it was thrown together on an iPhone just for the sake of saving a couple of bucks. There’s a knottiness to the fluidity of the shots that implies an almost irreverent attitude towards perfection, and beside the demeanor of her closest rivals in the American underground today, this player sounds a lot more mature and on top of her artistry. You’ve got to be gutsy if you want to connect with audiences right now, and she isn’t about to back down for anything in this performance.
I’ve been listening to a lot of new pop in the past couple of months, but the tightly-wound “Sweet Like Candy” takes the cake as one of the sunniest and most inviting tracks of its kind to land on my desk this year. This has the look and feel of a breakout single by all accounts, and although it’s heavy on harmonies and light on the synthetic elements a lot of other songs are structured around, that’s why I think it’s going to earn Cat Ridgeway a lot of clout well beyond the circles she is already dominating today.
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