Two years after her first full-length album, NAO explores the depths of love and heartbreak on the interstellar Saturn.
Story by Savannah Olson
From late October to mid November, the planet Venus takes a turn for the worse and goes into retrograde. A number of chaotic events can occur: an unexpected visit from an ex-lover or tumultuous moments that test the bonds of relationships to name a few. The retrograde of Venus also has positives, too. We can become more introspective, clearing the dreamy fog away from our eyes and seeing relationships for how they really are. In NAO’s newest album “Saturn,” the theme seems centralized around this re-evaluation of love in an astronomical perspective.
From the opening track “Another Lifetime,” NAO dives into the conflicting emotions of a relationship ending. “Sorry we couldn’t make it/Still, I miss you anyway, yeah.” Her usually ethereal voice grows a raspy edge right as the crescendo of the chorus hits, revealing a sense of desperation or even regret. The chorus of “I guess I’ll wait another lifetime/Meet us in another lifetime,” are not the words of someone letting go, but praying for a light at the end of the dark tunnel with that same partner.
One of the most emotionally visceral songs on the album is “Orbit.” Beginning on the notes of optimism, the slow-moving music treads into a heartbreak that attemptsto heal itself with someone new. The entire song feels like NAO is floating through space, as minimal chords thrum behind her recounts of loneliness from being left behind by someone you love. As NAO croons to her new partner “Kinda sad but you remind me/You remind me of a love that outgrew me too”, she doesn’t sound completely healed. Similar to other heartaches, the wound can remain for far longer than expected.
A critical part of NAO’s capability as a musician stems from her duality of crafting a stellar love song among her more melancholy tracks. The title track, “Saturn” is a entrancing ballad that builds off astrology’s theme of balance. Featuring UK singer-songwriter Kwabs, the two bounce off each other’s contrasting melodies – his rich and deep, with NAO’s syrupy sweet and airy. In the chorus, the two singers come together in a harmony that feels like a warm embrace. “You leave and you return/You’re just like Saturn to me,” reveal a different kind of relationship than the ones NAO describes in “Orbit” or “Another Lifetime.” On “Saturn,” NAO knows her partner has to leave, but trusts that they won’t be gone for long. Eventually, they will meet again and she has time to wait.
NAO’s use of astrology terminology on “Saturn” is not used unconsciously, but follows the overarching theme of love and loss that plenty of cultures through time have used. Saturn combines NAO’s soulful voice as she illustrates every emotion into her lyrics and production, telling the story of all love that exists.