La Roux’s ‘Supervision’ is a 21st century masterpiece.

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Supercolour Records

The cover of La Roux’s third studio album, ‘Supervision’.

Mason Montano, Music Editor

English synth pop act La Roux formed in 2006 as a duo consisting of Eleanor “Elly” Jackson as the lead vocalist and Ben Langmaid as the main producer and was a groundbreaking addition to the mainstream pop music scene.

Their debut single, “Quicksand”, was released in December 2008, and their self-titled debut album followed in June 2009, earning them massive international success with the hit single “Bulletproof”, which peaked at #1 on the UK Singles Chart and #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Their second album, Trouble in Paradise, was released in July 2014 after several delays resulting from Jackson’s health scare in early 2011 — She suffered muscle tension in her throat that inhibited her ability to sing after repeated panic attacks caused by extensive touring for the duo’s debut album — and the departure of Langmaid in February 2012 over creative differences.

Trouble in Paradise marked a shift in the direction of La Roux’s music from 8-bit-infused, synth-heavy pop to a disco, funk, and new wave-inspired sound that Langmaid was not pleased with and ultimately led to his decision to leave the group, although he did contribute to five of the record’s nine songs as a writer, making it his final project with Jackson.

Now a solo act, Jackson began writing material for the third La Roux album in April 2015 and stated that she wanted it to have a “more earthy”, “organic”, and “soulful” sound; however, the original version of the record was scrapped in late 2017 following a severe mental breakdown, and in early 2018, she started the project over from scratch.

In October 2019, “International Woman of Leisure” was released as the lead single from La Roux’s third studio album, Supervision — her first album in over five years as well as her first release as an independent artist after parting ways with Polydor Records in 2015 and her first fully-solo project.

According to Jackson in an interview with Dazed, the title has a double-meaning and indicates that she can “literally see clearly now” and that she no longer needs supervision as an artist. She also shared her enthusiasm about the record in an interview with HYPEBAE, describing its creation as “very cathartic” and “a joy from start to finish”.

Arriving in early February, Supervision is a vibrant work of art that continues the post-disco, funk, and new wave-influenced sound of Trouble in Paradise with an even more polished edge and discusses themes of love, moving on, and freedom through simplistic production and mature, thoughtful lyricism.

The opening track, “21st Century”, kicks off the album on a progressive note with bright synths and Jackson’s signature falsetto vocals as she sings about moving forward in life for the sake of the future, setting the overall tone of the record alongside “Do You Feel” — a groovy banger about self-discovery and questioning reality in order to learn more about one’s self. 

These ideas are expanded by the third single, “Automatic Driver” — a funky heartbreak anthem about wishing to have gotten more out of a relationship whose somewhat somber lyrics juxtapose themselves against the upbeat production — and “International Woman of Leisure”, on which Jackson breaks free from the heartache, moving on and enjoying life on a worldwide expedition of self-empowerment with strong feminist undertones.

In a Facebook post, she described the closing track and second single, “Gullible Fool”, as the “song [that she’s] needed to write [her] entire life” in addition to “the most special and meaningful song on the record”. She further explained that it “encapsulates a cycle of a life” and “describes the feeling of being overly trusting, and living under the assumption that you shouldn’t need to protect yourself if you are nice to people.”

It’s also the longest track on the album with a running time of 7:18 and depicts specific situations from Jackson’s life when she was bullied before moving into “a place of safety and joy”, signifying a cycle of healing from past trauma and effectively bringing the record to a close.

Supervision has received mixed reviews from critics due to its repetitive instrumentation and rather lengthy tracks — Each song runs for an average of five minutes — with some calling it “tedious” and “frustrating”. 

I, on the other hand, would argue that this album includes some of La Roux’s best work yet; as it’s super smooth, easy to listen to, and incredibly satisfying; but don’t just take my word for it, listen for yourself.

Supervision is available now across all online and streaming platforms.

Stream Supervision on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/3khQPGgmFLPQBPUHUDwPF2?si=WeFt050oRSir8_5EAF10rg 

Watch the music video for “International Woman of Leisure”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yS6egctCzqY 

La Roux in the music video for “International Woman of Leisure”.