Inside four minutes of the pure balladic pop thunder that is The Lori P. Davis Project’s new single “Hell 2 Pay,” listeners are taken on a journey to the melodic core of Davis’ juggernaut sound and pressed to embrace the sonic mayhem that she and her supporting players deliver so elegantly here. The gilded vocal that’s tucked in between the throttling beats acts as a burning light at the end of an unforgiving tunnel that employs rhythm and unforgiving tonality to put anyone bold enough to press play in their place. Davis proves with “Hell 2 Pay” that her talents aren’t limited to the conveyance of illustrative lyrics amid a snowstorm of sublime melodicism exclusively, and anyone who lives for a chest-clutching soft rock anthem will want to give this song a spin.
As its title warns us, the mountainous churn of the tone will draw all within earshot into a menacing vortex of strings, drums, and angst that is hard to escape once encountered. Davis’ singing is just as hostile as the instrumentation is, but significantly cleaner in the mix. “Hell 2 Pay” toys with Blondie-esque textural dynamics but shifts and grinds in tempo enough to keep the sound rooted in traditional pop songcraft. You can tell that while Davis’ influences are as diverse as rock n’ roll itself, she’s committed to keeping her style from becoming as muddied and undefined as that of her peers’ has.
“Hell 2 Pay” has a lot in common with the power ballads that paved the way for pop’s renaissance in the 1980s, but to say that this song isn’t indebted to the stylization of classic rock would be ignorant, to say the least. The guitar and bass move with an almost mechanical trudge, and between the slow and rigid grooves Davis’ vocal colors the melody with a fierceness that is chilling and magnetic.
My gut tells me that in a live setting, this song would take on a much more anthemic vibe and perhaps inspire an entire audience to grind to its aggressive beats; even in this format, the temptation to mosh becomes exceedingly tough to resist. Unlike a lot of her contemporaries who have demonstrated little ambitions other than to recycle the despair and lyrical pessimism of legends, Davis strikes me as a soft rock singer who wants to carve out her path on her terms, which is exactly what this song does on a creative level.
The Lori P. Davis Project’s latest single is twisted and chock full of emotional blows that few ballad music buffs will disagree with, and I find it to be one of the more refreshing soft rock singles that 2023 has had to offer so far. Davis doesn’t bore us with trite metaphors or ego-fueled theatrics that hold little relevance to sophisticated ears; she just cuts loose, puts down a wicked vocal track and knocks us out with a burning guitar part that doesn’t shy away from a show of strength if it means leaving us shaken to our bones. For pop fans, this is a must-listen.
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