The producer and singer's latest LP offers an honest glimpse into her life as a touring artist.
Davidson dives straight into her love/hate relationship with dance music culture on the intro, "Your Biggest Fan," the first in a series of vignettes that illuminate her outward frustrations as well as her personal demons. "It's weird because I play shows and tour the world but sometimes you have very high or drunk people who come to talk to you when you're packing up your gear and, [does impression], they're so high and destroyed and it can be depressing," she said in a 2017 interview. On the intro, she twists up her voice into a grotesque impression of these overzealous, overly inebriated or ignorant "fans" over ominous, movie preview-style ambience. "Can I help you roll your cables?" is undoubtedly from real life. But the voices become more malicious. "What's wrong with you? I hear she always sleeps alone. Cause she's fucked." Davidson's internal monologue offers up a whispered response to the shrill accusations, meekly attempting to assure herself that she's "living the dream."
These spoken-word skits do much of Working Class Woman's thematic heavy lifting. "The Psychologist" situates a fraught conversation between the protagonist and an ineffective shrink over a sinister wave track, while "Day Dreaming" lists common jobs in the industry before hinting at the crushing loneliness of the solo touring life. Davidson might be referring to the mixed blessing of a shattered "glass ceiling" on the "The Tunnel." The lyrics have her fending off brutes while crawling through a dark tunnel of broken glass. Modern horror film-style soundscapes complete the picture.
But this all makes Working Class Woman sound like a depressing slog. In fact, it contains Davidson's catchiest material to date. "Work It" is a modern electroclash hit. "So Right" recalls peak Kylie Minogue, the consciously vapid lyrics laying out club culture's alluring escapism. ("The music is so nice / I feel like I could die happy / Die happy tonight / He's got me feeling so high / Man, this is so nice.") Davidson wrote much of Working Class Woman on a marathon touring stretch, during which she was often an anomalous live act on bills full of DJs. Some of the album's pounding club tracks, like "Lara" and "Burn Me," certainly work for that setting, but suffer in comparison to the evocative vocal and spoken-word cuts. Perhaps the requirements of the peak-time set are not only spiritually damaging, but creatively stifling for Davidson, an artist with a diverse creative vision.
For the most part, though, that vision comes across here clearer than ever. Working Class Woman feels like a hard-earned step up from the promising Adieux Au Dancefloor and her band Essaie Pas's excellent 2018 album, New Path. Davidson has given it all to get here—"You wanna know how I get away with everything? / I work all the fucking time," she says on "Work It"—but she's perceptive enough to understand that this landmark has come at a cost. Working Class Woman is special because it looks beyond the personal highs and lows of touring to the cracks in the foundation of a lucrative club culture that requires constant, exhausting effort to achieve some semblance of stability. It's a tragicomic pop statement with a radical subtext: just because you're succeeding doesn't mean the system isn't fucked.