Olivia Thomas, aka LIV†, isn’t just one thing. The Seattle songwriter showed as much on her 2017 EP, 5 Summers, which saw her navigating between dazzling R&B crooners to stripped-back piano ballads and mammoth hip-hop beats. Her voice is a wondrous thing in its own right. She can just as easily fill the room with her rousing belts and as she can quiet the same space with her neo soul murmurs. It’s the connective thread that holds all of her work together and something she’s continuing to push in new directions, as we can hear on her new song “Somethin (A nod to Freddie Joachim),” the first single from her upcoming sophomore EP She’s A Social Nomad.
“Somethin” is the first song from Thomas where we get to hear her sing and rap on the same track. Her singing is about as great as you’d expect from her previous work, swirling through hook after hook with an effervescent flow. But it’s her rapping that nearly steals the show. She rhymes about her mom and the pressure to break away from circumstances holding her down, speaking with unflappable authority. She raps on the second verse, “I’m on a mission that’s hunger driven, haven’t you heard? / Well take a listen, it’s not a gimmick / This pen is work.” For Thomas, the work is never ending. Not just in a narrative of breaking out and being successful, but navigating her own identity and forging a path unique to herself. There’s always something.
“I am a living representation of intersectionality,” Thomas says. “I am a musician, black, a bi woman, a first generation college grad… twice… the list goes on. And with this I found I always felt like I was just floating between all these different communities and wasn’t sure exactly where I belonged. It took me a long time to realize this wasn’t a burden, its gift.”
Thomas calls the upcoming EP a celebration of the different communities she’s a part of and the aspects of her voice that they represent, adding, “I have more shit I need to speak on!” That feels like what’s really at the core of “Somethin.” She’s not just using her voice in a metaphorical sense, but quite literally. To hear her drop down from those wondrous choruses to spitting over the dusty grooves provided by production duo Soultanz, it feels like she’s coming down to Earth to talk with the listener directly. She wants you to hear what she’s saying, to feel what she’s saying, and to know what she means by it. All of the different aspects of her identity are in play at once, unifying in the words she chooses to express herself.
The video itself underscores this point. Thomas says her love of nostalgia inspired her to embrace the grainy film aesthetic, looking back at the people and places in her life that have made her who she is. She raps in front of a the Clover Park Early Learning Program building and around Lakewood neighborhoods. There are clips of house shows, house parties, graduation ceremonies, and trips to the ice skating rink. She even shows the origin of a scar on her face. All of these seemingly disparate moments are all a part of who she is – and I’d venture to say they only just scratch the surface. “Somethin” celebrates who she is and who she wants to become. And that’s something we could all learn to celebrate in ourselves and others as well.
Watch the video below.
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