Allie X is a Leo. As the most glamorous sign in the zodiac, Leos want attention. They want to be noticed. And so, for the bold, vivid, Los Angeles-by-way-of-Toronto pop artist, this scans. Allie X has always wanted to be seen. But her personal Gospel of artistry and performance were at odds with her realities as a teenager growing up in a suburban Ontario town. Here, she was faced with the unfortunate truth that other teenagers totally suck, and they’ll make life harder on you if you’re different in any way.
“When I was in high school, I wanted to be seen so badly, but I wanted to hide socially as well, she says. “I was willing to accept people being kind of cruel in exchange for just being acknowledged.”
These experiences are at the foundation of Allie X’s sumptuous second full-length record, Cape God. This project seems like, on the surface, like a bit of a departure from her others, especially so when seeing Cape God set against the bubbly-plastic EP Super Sunset. Sonically, she swerves, gets quiet, propels herself during what she calls a “party segment.” It is different, but isn’t that what we expect from her anyway?
It was time, Allie says, to confront some of the harder experiences from her youth, because she never had before. So much of the conversation around Cape God in other publications and reviews relies on the anecdote of Allie being moved by a documentary on substance abuse called Heroin: Cape Cod, U.S.A.. Certainly, Allie says, the documentary has some importance to this record, but more than anything, it was an emotional opening for her to be empathetic to a younger version of herself.
“What the documentary did was put me in a headspace where I was able to tap into old feelings, because of the characters [in it],” she says. “I just related to the fear, the desperation, and the struggle. The isolation and the difficulties connecting to the family, and the shame, embarrassment, and not knowing what the future holds, on so many levels.”
Writing Cape God came, surprisingly, very easily to Allie. Of all the work she’s done, including writing pop songs for others – like a recent BTS track – Cape God more or less flowed out of her. She didn’t strain, or re-write songs. Tucked away in Stockholm, Sweden, Allie worked on this record with a few people, but her primary collaborators were Swedish producer Oscar Görres and co-writer James Alan Ghaleb.
The record opens with the pulsing “Fresh Laundry,” a melancholic, nostalgic track for some ordinary vibes. Impressions of what regularity or “normal” is appear all over the record, as in “Regulars,” or on songs like “Life of the Party” or “Super Duper Party People.” The album closer “Learning in Public” is perhaps the jewel of the album: it sounds more like a tribute to herself, a nod to what growth looks and feels like. (Difficult, always.) It bookends the record with opener “Fresh Laundry,” and she saysit’s a sequencing choice of which she’s proud.
Cape God is a liminal space but it’s also, as Allie confirms, a safe space. It’s a container of her own making, where she could sort outfeelings about her youth. “I wanted to make a place that was beautiful and that I could control the aesthetic of,” she says. “It’s a place that I got to control, and to curate, and [that could] safely exist. I think that’s maybe why writing this was such a pleasurable experience, as opposed to, like, a painful one.”
Allie says this project documents a period of her life that she never felt equipped to deal with until now – when maturation, growth, and a little bit of experience could cushion it. What she’s done is provide a sympathetic, tender conversation from one person (Allie) to another (teen Allie) that almost every adult can understand.
It;’s confusing being young. You’re confronted with a lack of experience, but also told this is the very best part of your life, and expected to determine and drive culture. Being artistic, and authentically different on top of that, causes extra strain. Allie’s wish to be seen, to be heard, to do something of note in her life, is happening now – but she couldn’t reassure her young self that any of it would happen at all. She just had to grow up and see it.