No matter how flashy their magazine covers are or how flamboyant they look in their music videos, many pop musicians are introverts. They have to be: the job description requires introspection, emotional honesty, and single-minded dedication to their craft. But to connect with an audience, the pop artist needs to turn all of that soul-searching outward: she needs to find her fiery, red-headed spirit, and she needs to make it visible for her audience. Meresha knows all about that struggle: the singer-songwriter pens uncommonly thoughtful pop, and for the better part of a decade, she’s been entertaining us with electronic and dance music of surprising musical and lyrical depth. But sometimes, she wants to roar – and on “Red Headed Lover,” she’s doing just that. The clip for the upbeat, compulsively danceable pop song gives us two Mereshas: one blonde, elegantly-bobbed, and reserved, and another with flaming red tresses, flirtatious and ready to rock. Which one is she? Well, she’s both, of course. One can’t exist without the other.
No matter how passionate she gets, Meresha never loses that sense of balance and artistic cohesion that has always been a hallmark of her work. It’s audible on “Violet Night” and “Olivia,” her two Billboard-charting club singles from 2018 and 2019, respectively. That poise was one of the distinguishing characteristics of Enter The Dreamland, the 2017 EP that AllMusic called “smart, effervescent, forward-thinking, progressive pop.” And it’s present on every track of Look How Far, the wide-ranging retrospective collection that she released last year. “Red Headed Lover” builds on the successes of those prior releases, retaining their intelligence and sense of innovation while adding a newfound sense of urgency to her sound. It’s a style she’s developed on her own: she’s been a producer since she was a teenager, and her choice of beats and synthesizer sounds is as characteristic and personal as her breathy, direct, confessional vocals. She calls her style “alien pop,” and it’s not hard to see why – it’s got the immediacy of contemporary chart hits, yet there’s a detached, reflective, otherworldly quality to it, too.
There’s a male object of desire in the clip for “Red Headed Lover,” and Meresha isn’t shy about chasing him as he dances through these frames. Yet, the real relationship in the video is between the artist and the woman she sees in the mirror. As she slips effortlessly between the innocent, reticent blonde and the driven redhead, the message is clear: identity is mutable, and even the most ruminative artist must sometimes set herself afire to get what she wants.