It may seem odd to consider Holly Elle, the girl from Chestermere, Alberta, as a diva. Yet Leopardess, her new EP, seems to solidify that deep within the small Canadian town was a glam queen just waiting to burst out into the open and attack.
Born and bred on musical theatre, European folk popular music that included the stuff of ABBA, Elton John and the Beatles, Elle’s sensibility for the dazzling side of life sprang into existence pretty early. “As a little girl my dad would always take me to the opera. I loved dressing up for it, which might be where I get my sense of glamour and probably why I love musical theater so much,” she says.
Like Lady Gaga, another glam-pop livewire who impressed the hell out of me early in her career, Elle’s strengths come through not in terms of sheer image-building but in how the glitzy contours of her personality make their way into her song delivery. She takes what may appear to be colour-by-numbers pop on paper and transforms it into her own living, glitter-breathing creatures.
Leopardess is very much its own beast, a stalking collage of danceable and confident pop that sparkles outward from a very pure place.
“Predator” is the aptly-titled first track. Suggesting that she perhaps plays with her prey before sinking her teeth in, Elle delves through an electro-touched jungle that pulses with dance floor readiness and an infectious chorus.
“Seeing Red” carries things onward with the emotional construct of a ballad, but the pulsing, throbbing tempo change is right on target and saves the track from Average Land. At times, Elle’s voice curves around the notes like a certain Super Bowl half-time show performer.
There’s also “You Deserve a Song,” an uplifting piece that speaks to Elle’s more encouraging nature. This isn’t as strong a song as the first two and it overstays its welcome somewhat with some extended repetition, but the chorus is catchy and the vocal blend is on-point.
“Wanna Be Loved” plays with a late-night feel and speaks of a decomposing relationship. Elle stretches the notes out nicely and pulls on some R&B influences in the chorus, leading into the anthemic “Who I Am” to close out the EP. The last song talks about finding what’s right and discovering the elusive notion of self. Once more, the chorus shines.
With Leopardess, Holly Elle continues laying the groundwork for what could be a very invigorating and exciting career. Taking a few more risks in the song department would benefit this Alberta native, but the glitter is in play and her prey best be on their toes.