Emotions in tension on Faye Webster’s album

Faye Webster released her new album, “Underdressed at the Symphony.” The album is vulnerable while still guarded. // Photo courtesy of Faye Webster.

After many tours and a series of singles, Faye Webster finally settled down to release her fifth studio album: “Underdressed at the Symphony.” Fans of Webster’s music likely suspected the same repetitive crooned choruses driving her lovelorn songs for her new album, and the singer-songwriter delivers on these expectations. Yet “Underdressed at the Symphony” also redefines her style as each track balances Webster’s familiar structures with a saddened, more reserved viewpoint. 

Starting in June 2023 with the release of her single, “But Not Kiss,” Webster began to prime fans for the mix of messages on the coming album. She followed this conflicting track with “Lifetime,” a slow-paced, reflective song where Webster seems more sure of her desire to be forever linked to someone
throughout her life. 

It is important to note a consistent quality of Faye Webster’s songs: she loves to repeat herself. Her most impactful lyrics are terse and emphasized over and over again. For example, “Lifetime” features the phrase “In a lifetime…” 22 times, leaving just eight other unique lines in the entire song. However, this speaks not to a lack of vocabulary but an intentional overreliance on the delivery of her lyrics and instrumentals behind each of her songs. 

As Webster hums out the last syllable of each “lifetime,” she hangs on just long enough that the listener will wonder when her next thought will arrive and what it will be. Similarly, “But Not Kiss” starts with an almost whisper of Webster’s love for her partner, followed by an exclamation of her decision to “not kiss.” Previous albums have seen Webster grow more and more confident in expressing her feelings, but “Underdressed at the Symphony” sees her stepping back to veil her most complicated thoughts and emotions. 

Apart from the singles, “Thinking About You” again showcases how Webster uses repetition to deliver her message: she is thinking about her former partner but is scared to elaborate on more than that. 

The album is full of these moments; Webster will work up the courage to finally admit her struggles with the end of a relationship before retreating.

Additionally, “Underdressed at the Symphony” does not shy from exploring other styles, much like her previous work. “Wanna Quit All the Time” is reminiscent of the tropical themes of “Room Temperature,” the first track of 2019’s “Atlanta Millionaires Club.” Other tracks reflect the title of the album, featuring brief orchestral segments that link to Webster’s “Car Therapy Sessions,” an EP of her previous songs with an orchestra backing the singer. While some of these excursions pay off, others seem to miss the mark for those familiar with her usual sound. 

As Webster contends with the end of her relationship and disclosing its details, other entries on the album see her speaking freely, experimenting with different musical toys and collaborating with her childhood friend. “Lego Ring” featuring Lil Yachty would have been an unexpected track without knowing the two have been longtime friends, and the song exudes the fun they had together, although the mix of the two artists’ styles does not always work. “Feeling Good Today” similarly expands on the positives in Webster’s life, having her literally yap through a vocoder about her plans for the day. 

While many tracks on “Underdressed at the Symphony” are stunted, with Webster losing ground in her emotional vulnerability, a few songs show her still managing to have fun within her social circles and interests. While Webster may struggle to fathom her lost love, which she barely admits to the listener, she finds solace in exploring new spaces as an artist. 

The album concludes with the stuttered “Tttttime,” showing that Webster is getting used to being alone again. Adapting to a new life, she asks, “I don’t know what to do / I’m alone, but what’s new?” Webster is unsure of the future, reflecting the indecisiveness throughout the record, but her recognition that she has time to figure it out keeps her going. 

Although “Underdressed at the Symphony” seems like the most veiled album in Webster’s discography, she is resolute in her attempts to clue the listeners in on her life’s updates. Whether that is the dissolution of her relationship or trivial updates about her neighborhood, Webster balances the album well throughout, holding in tension both restraint and openness, succinctness and expression and new and old. “Underdressed at the Symphony” pleases and depresses the listener with each track, offering a new view of Webster’s life with every song.