Review by Vince Leigh
Problems is the new single for Hope Wilkins and follows the release of her acclaimed debut EP Coffee Cups. Hope wrote the track with fellow Canberra artists Joel Tyrell (Hands Like Houses) and Lucy Sugerman and is, as the PR blurb states, ‘the first step towards her newly refined sonic identity.’
That sonic identity is a definitive leap into some mainstream territory: clean production, a focus on a multi-tiered vocal approach, contemporary rhythmic additions, and space enough to reveal the tonal expanse of Hope’s voice.
After the raw and earthy palette of her previous releases, Problems sounds quite polished, smooth, and more across the board accessible. The song style is also different, which is undoubtedly a result of the collaboration mentioned above. We now have a marriage of Hope’s high wattage range, direct fire lyrics and emotional-fuelled performative presence, with a pop-imbued series of melodic lines.
Problems sounds like a very capable contender for sustained radio play, with its internal dynamic a good mix of predictability and expectation.
And its hooks are not so obvious as to seem contrived but instead have a healthy amount of stealth to them. The chorus can linger long after the track’s final vocal adlibs, and the interplay between acoustic guitar and machine beat has a resonating quality also.
The song explores the role of alcohol in a young adult’s life—a worthy and no doubt potentially perilous subject matter—and Hope handles this field of sociology and psychology with suitable delicacy and ambiguity. The juxtaposition of pop-inspired, contemporary R&B flavoured sensibilities with such a weighty topic enhances the track, embellishing it with a dark sweetness whose attraction is multi-dimensional, fertile, and affecting.
Problems is certainly a refashioning for Hope, an extension that, conversely and surprisingly, reveals in a much starker manner than present in her earlier releases the breadth and depth of her unquestionable talent.