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Dove Cameron shines in all of her gothic-pop glory with debut album “Alchemical: Volume 1”

Musical artist Dove Cameron’s official album cover, “Alchemical: Volume 1.” The first half of the album was released on Dec. 1, and the second half is set to release in 2024. PUBLIC DOMAIN

Dove Cameron released the highly-anticipated first half of her debut album, “Alchemical: Volume 1,” on Dec. 1 — a decade after she began starring on the Disney Channel sitcom “Liv and Maddie.” Her debut album is slated to be released in two parts.

In the mid-2010s, Cameron distinguished herself from Disney Channel with a brief stint in the pop duo “The Girl and The Dreamcatcher.” Despite this attempt at kickstarting a singing career, the music Cameron released was exclusively recorded for Disney Channel soundtracks, preventing listeners from embarking on her solo musical journey along with her. But, this has changed within the last few years.

Between 2019 and 2021, Cameron sporadically released solo tracks such as “Bloodshot,” “So Good” and “LazyBaby.” However, it was her 2022 breakout single, “Boyfriend,” that received critical acclaim upon release and climbed the Billboard Global 200 at the end of last year. This initial turning point in her musical career paved the way for her return to pop stardom with the release of “Alchemical: Volume 1.” The album features a notable return to her sultry and dark musical style, with “Boyfriend” arguably being one of the most memorable tracks.

“‘I’m excited to feel like my music is actually allowing me to be the person I’ve always been,’” Cameron told Teen Vogue. “‘[R]ather than the projected archetype of the person that I thought people needed me to be, wherever I was in my life at the time.’”

The eight-track album opens with “Lethal Woman” and revolves around a woman Cameron met at a party who exudes confidence, sensuality and danger. However, the song’s surface-level lyricism falls flat despite the mix of attraction and potential consequences of the relationship. This is best shown by the lyrics, “Can’t feel my face, I shoulda stayed home,” and, “I know what she’s doin’, she’s a lethal woman.”

Still” is a somber ballad that opens with subtle sounds reminiscent of clicking a computer mouse. Cameron then begins singing in a melody that echoes Mykola Leontovych’s Christmas song, “Carol of the Bells.” Cameron sings about wanting to take some time to live in the present amidst her chaotic life. Among the few ballads featured on the album, “Still” is one of the weaker tracks, with “Sand” standing out as one of the highlights.

In “Sand,” Cameron comes to recognize that a past relationship was toxic and unrequited, capturing the complexity of navigating a relationship where love is imbalanced. The song originated from a poem Cameron wrote earlier this year. “Sand” exudes a quiet agony that “Still” fails to achieve due to its underdeveloped lyrics, inviting listeners into a haunting journey of introspection.

White Glove” centers around opulence and luxury, embodying a lavish lifestyle associated with sex, money and drugs. The song is a departure from the previous tracks with its contrasting lyrical premise, delving into the darker aspects of pleasure-seeking. “White Glove” captures the similar darkness embodied in “Lethal Woman,” but the former focuses on a hedonistic lifestyle while the latter highlights the allure of romance through a reflective tone. 

“White Glove” reintroduces the album’s haunting musical atmosphere, but there is a lack of versatility; this is clear in the similar production style of “Lethal Woman” and “Breakfast,” the album’s second single which was released on June 24, 2022. All three songs embody the camp-pop style the singer frequently utilizes.

In “God’s Game,” Cameron hauntingly sings that “[she] is no home for [someone],” describing herself as “shades of blue.” The song revolves around the unpredictability of love, with the lyric “a boy with a man’s face / Playing God’s game,” suggesting an element of manipulation or control in a romantic relationship. Despite this, Cameron skillfully manages to add touches of vulnerability to her lyrics.

The album concludes with the ethereal serenity of “FRAGILE THINGS,” the only track on the entire album with a title that is stylized in all capital letters. Cameron draws parallels between her doomed romantic relationship and a “house of fragile things” in one of the album’s most vulnerable tracks. She contemplates the idea of painting the walls and changing the floors, but admits that renovating her house would not erase the love she once held for her former partner. 

Sonically, “FRAGILE THINGS” begins with a slow, high-pitched piano accompanied by a gentle verse before building up the chorus to incorporate strings in a staccato manner. As the concluding track, Cameron’s low, sultry voice adds a dark dimension to the album’s finale.

While the 27-year-old singer’s debut contains weak lyricism and a lack of sonic versatility, the album symbolizes healing and growth from emotional pain. “Alchemical: Volume 1” is a culmination of Cameron writing music to process and express the trauma tied to her past relationships with moments of self-discovery. 

“Alchemical: Volume 2” is set to follow with an anticipated release in 2024, in all of Cameron’s gothic-pop glory.

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About the Contributor
Clare Gehlich, Assistant Arts & Culture Editor
Clare is the Assistant Arts and Culture Editor for The Statesman and a senior journalism major with a minor in political science. Since transferring to Stony Brook University in 2022, she has written for both Herald Community Newspapers and WSHU Public Radio.
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