Bibi’s debut studio album overflows with dark, seductive strength. Lowlife Princess: Noir tells the story of the singer’s struggle towards power and freedom. Through this treacherous journey, Bibi finds physical and emotional strength to fight for what is hers.
While her previous releases, like the iconic “Cigarette and Condom”, had a certain playfulness to them, this time Bibi means business. Taking on the persona of a dark princess, she ruthlessly trades cuteness for viciousness. The singer packs the first punch right at the beginning of the album, with the powerful electronics-heavy “Blade”. “Better than a tongue I got weapon” she says as the loud beat increases in tempo, building the suspense only to conclude with “I’m that weapon”. From the beginning, Bibi lets the listeners know that she can fight. This fierce confidence continues all throughout the album. “BIBI Vengeance” is a nonchalant display of power; “Lowlife Princess” – a shameless brag (“Zeros in my bank, eight-figure in my check”).
The reason behind this intense and at points violent journey of growth is explained in one of the singles, “Animal Farm”. The song points out how superficial and rotten the people surrounding her are. In order to survive in the society that only values her for her looks, Bibi had to become a powerful and merciless Lowlife Princess. A gory, Tarantino-esque MV showcases her tenacious attitude and need for revenge. “Hang my pretty head in your room/Where is love? Where is my sympathy?” she sings as she herself takes the heads of her enemies.
However, the true strength of the titular’ Lowlife Princess’ comes from her vulnerability. Bibi is not afraid to explore harrowing loneliness and heartbreak in “Sweet Sorrow of Mother” and “City Love”, while “Witch Hunt” talks about feelings of self-loathing. Intertwining the outrageous confidence with soft fragility show Bibi’s maturity as an artist and stop the album from becoming an edgy cliché.
Grappling with such dark themes can be overwhelming, but the energetic arrangements present all throughout the album act as a perfect counterbalance to the dismal lyrics. The lively beat in “BIBI Vengeance” echoes Latin rhythms, making it a great dance track. Powerful energy flows through the album with deep, seductive beats and futuristic sounds. The production perfectly supports the singer’s storytelling. Best example of it is “Blade”, in which the fast, electronic beat blends with Bibi’s chanting, resulting in a powerful, stirring mayhem. This thrilling overstimulation of the senses convinces the listener that Bibi really is going to a war, preparing for the fight of her life.
Even the songs that don’t rely on intense, loud beats manage to sound powerful. “Animal Farm” is a pop ballad filled with seductive strings, constantly appearing in decisive strokes throughout the track. The song brings a sexy but dangerous feeling to the album without slowing it down one bit.
The cold, calculated beat of “Lowlife Princess” adds another layer of coolness to its emotionally detached lyrics.
In the few moments where Bibi shows more vulnerability, the production is stripped down to a minimum to highlight the sorrow and anguish of the lyrics. For example, the lonesome “Sweet Sorrow of Mother” is a simple piano arrangement. These low-energy, wistful moments are only few and far between and, if anything, they make the album more intriguing, without taking away any of its initial force
The most alluring part of the album is definitely Bibi’s constant experimentation with her vocals. The singer’s ability to convey emotion through her voice is truly impressive. Unafraid to scream, chant, murmur or moan, Bibi brings the lyrics to life almost as if she was acting out a play for the listeners. The impact of those small additions is best pictured in “JOTTO”, where a few seconds of humming take the song from being good to being great. Aside from these unique embellishments, she delivers moments of impressively strong vocals, like in the hook of “Animal Farm” or all throughout the pop-rock treat that is “City Love”.
The bold experimentation with vocal textures is what makes Bibi stand out among other K-Pop artists. The only issue is that when she inevitably falls back on her signature flat, mumble-like rap and singing, the album suddenly loses steam. As a result, songs like “Loveholic’s Hungover” or “Wet Nightmare” come off a bit bland when compared to the rest of the album.
Lowlife Princess: Noir is a triumph filled with intriguing themes, seductive melodies and powerful rhythms. Bibi manages to maintain her reputation as a cool badass, while simultaneously delivering raw vulnerability, and this double-edged dynamic is best captured in “Animal Farm”, where the singer asks “Am I a tiger or a gazelle?”. The astonishing power showcased in Lowlife Princess: Noir makes it clear that Bibi is, indeed, a tiger.