It’s rather unfair that every review of anything Imani Coppola has ever recorded starts off with a mention of her sole, two-decade-old hit (“Legend of a Cowgirl”), as she’s come far lyrically and musically since then. Still a teenager when she scored her 15 minutes of fame, Coppola won over a small fan-base with “Legend” and its parent album, 1997’s Chupacabra, which is best described as a set of cheeky short stories set to sample-happy hip-hop arrangements.
Two decades on, Coppola is still making music, albeit for a smaller audience. Her latest release, Hypocrites, was crowdfunded via PledgeMusic and dropped in summer. Not only is it among her timeliest records – it’s loosely a concept album mocking technology and hipsters – but it’s also among her best: gone are the days of ‘60s sampling and tales of cartoonish alter egos. In their place are wry commentary on our tech obsession and idiosyncrasies.
For this record, her twelfth, technology replaces racism and the work world as her #1 enemy. On “Facetime Continuum,” she plays the role of a techie who unplugs her boyfriend’s life support so that she can charge her iPhone; the Auto-tune, though it has destroyed many a song, works well in this context: it evokes T-Pain and adds to the song’s technological focus. “Swipe,” meanwhile, employs the same Autotune while mocking many of the clichés Coppola has noticed on Tinder: “Take me on your boat/I wanna ski down your slippery slope,” she mockingly begs, knowing full well that those images are selected solely to impress viewers.
Unfortunately, the novelty of the Autotune wears off rather quickly, so by its third and fourth appearances, it’s more grating than entertaining. For one thing, it often makes Coppola’s vocals difficult-to-decipher, which is a real shame, given that her lyrics are so often amusing and insightful. Additionally, as the album winds to a close, many of the songs feel interchangeable with their tinny production. Not even a sample of the “Ghostbusters” theme can pull “Like You Didn’t Know” (a diatribe apparently directed at Coppola’s cat) from the Autotune wreckage.
It’s no coincidence, then, that the highlights are the songs on which she foregoes the Autotune for an approach that, while not exactly stripped-down, is infinitely more listenable. The best track is “Mixed Nut,” on which Coppola mocks hipsters while commenting on her own multiracial origins. It makes “#Selfie” sound tame by comparison: the opening line is “I talk in upspeak, so it sounds like I’m asking a question… even when I’m not.” She goes on to command “don’t judge me!” and mock people’s resistance to labels. “Just Feels Good,” another standout, successfully navigates the fine line between a feel-good song and an irritating earworm. Its lyrics (“The sunshine's feelin' my vibe/I got sunglasses on, my happy face”) are simplistic, to be sure, but the song possesses the self-awareness and restraint needed to make it palatable.
Despite the fact that the album occasionally veers to the overly conceptual – from the Autotune to the incessant heckling of hipsters – it’s a fun listen nonetheless, and one of the better records in her discography. At best, the album will make you think; at the very least, it will make you chuckle.