Fousheé leans into rage on her new album softCORE. We discuss what it’s been like touring with Steve Lacy and how she’s gotten to this confident version of herself.
Fousheé’s debut time machine was her proper introduction to the music she has been writing since she was five years old. For the album, she leaned into multiple genres — mainly R&B but also alt and pop — to paint a picture of her intimate relationships and how they went left. She laid herself bare through her songwriting, which offered up vulnerable perspectives on dating, old boyfriends, and grappling with spite. The album — and the music she’s continued to make since — is indicative of how she prefers to acknowledge her feelings through music rather than speaking at length about them.
“I don’t like explaining myself. I’m just really introverted. So, I’ll just make it a song,” she said over a Zoom call.
Now, over a year after releasing time machine, Fousheé has released her second album, softCORE. On the project, which is out today, she pushes herself further into the alternative market, meshing the sound she explored on time machine with both punk and metal. She explained that the album’s biggest inspiration was the anger she felt while participating in her first tour as an opener for James Blake last year.
“I just remember being really frustrated [that’s] just where I was emotionally with life,” she said. “The project ended up being me expressing that anger and finding balance.”
Fousheé started piecing softCORE together when the tour finished last October. Holed up in an Airbnb in New York City, she wrote for a month, with “i’m fine” being the first song she made. The track is one of the standouts from the album, with Fousheé’s soft vocals juxtaposed against heavy guitar riffs — a pairing that is present throughout the album.
“I [wanted] to do more things like this and I was listening to a lot of punk and metal and just more gritty things,” she said, also admitting that it was tough to not think about how fans would respond to the more punk-centric music she was creating. “I wanted to make [music] without thinking about what people wanted to hear from me, and that’s what I did.”
After writing “i’m fine,” she decided that the album would be tonally dark, complimenting the anger she wanted to explore on it. So, she enlisted BNYX (who produced a majority of the songs on the album), Phoelix, Miguel Angeles, and Rob Bisel (best known for his credits on SZA’s “Hit Different” and “I Hate You”) to nail down its sound. There’s an uptick in her energy when she mentions Zach Fogarty (a producer who got his start working with Denzel Curry years ago in Miami), who she said pieced the album together, and producer Solomonophonic, who she previously worked with on 2020 loosie “single af,” for helping her with the overall sound on softCORE. Both of these producers assisted her with approaching this album without inhibitions, allowing her to express the truest version of herself, which is present from the album’s very beginning.
On album opener “simmer down,” she unleashes pent-up emotions as she rage sings and enthusiastically declares “I don’t fuck around” in the track’s chorus, a foreshadowing of what’s to come on the rest of the project.
“I’ve never screamed before, and I found my scream,” she said. “I found a new voice that I didn’t know I had, and pictured wanting to just have that effect live and be able to mosh and have fun like the boys get to do.”
“spend the money,” the third single from softCORE, is also notable, as it finds Fousheé going toe to toe with Lil Uzi Vert, a fellow punk music enthusiast. While the song is a bit experimental, it’s grounded by swift-paced drums, allowing Uzi to drop some carefree rhymes about choosing to be alone and rich, rather than cuffed up and miserable.
When asked about why Uzi is the sole feature on the album, Fousheé shared: “I didn’t want this to become a feature project. I wanted the songs to stand on their own. Uzi happened really organically, we just met online.”
“[They’re] this huge rockstar, and I felt like there was a lot I could learn from [their] energy and process,” she added.
Since she didn’t want to completely abandon the other side of herself that was present on time machine, she dedicated the second half of softCORE to the melodic choruses and smooth vocals she’s become known for. This balance is heard in tracks like “unexplainable,” a track about being in a toxic situationship, and “smile,” where she details yearning for someone who keeps her smiling. The latter feels a bit stripped down, but it’s emotionally moving since she makes her feelings plain, singing: “And you look good on my arm / And I don’t do this a lot / Let’s make everybody in the room talk / Life sure feels nice / Pinch me twice.”
It took a year for the album to become what it is now. Although it was largely recorded in New York, it was mixed and mastered in Los Angeles, where the singer is based. As the project was coming together though, she began to have self-doubt, so much so that she wondered if she should revert to the R&B sound she started off with, just to appear more digestible to the world.
“[softCORE] was something I felt like I needed to say, and something I felt was missing in the world. I kind of feel like I do that a lot,” she said. “I’m glad I stuck it out because I think it’s really unique. I do feel like I have to stick to my guns, and it’s good that I’ve had that time to sit with it, know who I am more, and understand who I am now in my life because I’ve been writing since I was five years old.”
Fousheé has come a long way in finding her voice, although the journey is still ongoing. From fighting to be recognized as the voice that was sampled on Sleepy Hallow’s “Deep End Freestyle” to recently touring with Steve Lacy, the artist is trying to use her voice more effectively while still continuing to experiment with it. But she’s also taking in the success she’s achieved, proudly standing behind the music she’s making now, a testament to just how long she’s been performing and writing.
Her work with Lacy is also proof of how long she’s been at this. Not only did she co-write his No. 1 hit “Bad Habit,” but she also has songwriting credits on “Mercury” and “Cody Freestyle,” as well as a production credit on “Sunshine,” where she’s a featured guest, too. “Bad Habit” is nominated for three Grammys, Song and Record of The Year, and Mercury Rights also received a nod for Best Progressive R&B album.
In Lacy, she’s found a creative bond that makes her feel like when she first started making music as a kid, saying: “I love the music I make with Steve. It’s so fun because he plays all these instruments.”
As Fousheé continues to explore other musical ideas and sounds, she hopes that her fans are willing to join her on that journey, even if it may get weird at times. But if not, she’s still going to put her creative expression first before trying to please anyone.
“I think anything new is scary,” she said, before offering some words of advice to her fans: “Be brave and power through, because I’m really trying to create a new path and a new sound and it’s not easy.”