Arts, Column

YNFA: Emerson Leif Adds Layers To Underground Pop Genre

Australian singer and songwriter Emerson Leif might not be a name you’re familiar with. After all, he has just over 225,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. But, he excels at his craft nonetheless. 

While Leif might fit best into the underground pop genre, this label feels limiting.

Leif has a distinct and evocative voice which he pairs with mellow beats, synths, and guitars to create beautiful songs about relationships, love, and hope.

“Hesitate,” which Leif made with fellow Australian artist Golden Vessel, is his oldest and best performing song on Spotify with over 31 million streams since it was released in August 2018. Backed by dreamy synths and a catchy beat, Leif and Golden Vessel—who sound very similar—sing about uncertainty in a relationship.

“You’re a sight, for sore eyes / Don’t know why I hesitate, and I can fall apart /  Tell me that your love is a sure thing,” the two musicians sing. 

The first song Leif released on his own is titled “Twenty2,” and it follows a similar sonic pattern to “Hesitate.” With muted and mellow synths and snares, the bass is much more prominent, and the song feels like a warm, late summer night. All of Leif’s discography has a similar feeling—cultivating it is one of the things Leif does best. Aside from his incredibly thoughtful and reminiscent lyrics, the memories and feelings contained in and elicited by his songs are what should make Leif more popular than he is.

Leif’s romantic side shines through on “Wake up with You” and “Next2,” two singles released from his debut EP, Bad Company, in 2019 and 2020, respectively. 

“I played it solo, I wanted to / Yeah, I was confident until you said / ‘I think about you, yeah,’” Leif sings on “Wake up to You.”

“Next2” represents the wishes in “Wake up with You” coming to fruition.

“I think I was terrified I wouldn’t be enough / I got used to walking alone / But you were standing next to me,” Leif sings. 

Both of the songs use distorted synths and layered vocals which make it sound like Leif is sitting right next to the listener. He has a gift for combining his mellow pop sound with wistful and optimistic lyrics that are absolutely relatable.

In October 2022, Leif released his second EP, Good Shot, and there is really no better way to describe its contents than Leif’s own words.

Good Shot is a message of hope,” Leif said in an interview with Variance Magazine, “It’s quiet confidence. It’s when the odds are against you but you know you will make it through. You can heal and change and grow. You are not alone.” 

A snare and bass drum combo drive the final song on the EP, “More or Less,” as Leif waffles between optimism and pessimism before landing on a positive point of view. 

“More or less, I’ve been hoping for the best, hoping for the best,” Leif sings. 

The title track, “Good Shot,” highlights Leif’s trademark electronic, warm, and muted synths, paired with more messages of optimism. 

If there was ever a reason to listen to Leif, aside from easy-going beats and dreamy, nostalgia-inducing synths, it would be his overall message of hope. So what better way to conclude than with some lyrics from Leif and “Good Shot” themselves.

“I don’t know which way’s up yeah / And I don’t wanna feel afraid of / Everything that I can’t change I / Know I gotta make it better / But I think I got a good shot,” Leif sings.

March 1, 2023