Poignant, haunting and groovy, the 4 track offering titled ‘Dollhouse’, by the Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Aditi Iyer, is not your average ‘bad romance’ EP. The music will surely make the listeners groove but the lyrical intensity — that digs in deep into the vastly rampant pattern of abusive relationships — will certainly leave them thinking. This is the second EP by the opera trained, school-going prodigy, who released her first track at the age of 10.
Dollhouse released globally on August 19th, 2021
Aditi Iyer may have just turned 17 but she already has a slew of releases (including a 4-track EP and several videos of popular renditions) on streaming platforms. A prolific young singer, Aditi has worked on enhancing the range and dexterity of her voice from a very young age.
The trained opera singer’s tryst with music began before she was two years of age and by three she was already a jukebox of nursery rhymes. Soon enough, armed with an iPad, Aditi took on the mighty task of flawlessly singing & performing difficult western classical and contemporary pieces, much before she even received any formal education in music.
By the age of ten, she already had one original (Who You Are) under her belt and a standing ovation from the judges of Next Star Romania (equivalent of an Indian Idol) after delivering a spellbinding performance. Who You Are was a testament to the artist’s personal experience of being bullied, which was accompanied by a resounding message ‘to be yourself & stand your ground’, even in the face of adversity. Aditi’s first track was also a testament for the singer and songwriter she was growing into.
Now as a young teen, with a number of originals already out on streaming platforms along with an EP titled ‘The Girl They See’ (2020), she’s set to launch her second EP – ‘Dollhouse’ on August 19th, 2021, with the aim of bringing the prowess of opera singing into alt/pop-songs along with a clear focus on creating awareness around a very disturbing trend. This cathartic offering is accompanied by a compelling artwork of a Dollhouse which is anything but…
The EP that is woven around the disconcerting pattern of abusive relationships with an ironic yet very apt title – Dollhouse, is a poignant take on the very nature of this rampant trend.
Talking about the EP, Aditi says, “If I had to use one word to describe the sound of Dollhouse, it would be haunting. It’s grim and sad but also strangely comforting, just by how deep it goes into feelings which normalises things a bit. I always wanted it to sound the way it does…”
“Dollhouse is the kind of EP that doesn’t try to avert pain, but rather revel in it,” the artist lets in. A meld of dark synths and darker feelings put to a beat, Dollhouse is about abusive relationships and coming to the gradual realisation of how wrong they are. Tearing Me Open, the lead single, starts at the beginning with the self-loathing that comes with an abusive partner, Hollow about the slow disillusionment that sets, Withdrawals the feeling of confusion and desperation after the relationship, and Your Photograph a final realisation of your own empowerment though it isn’t so much a reversal as a renewal.
The class 12 student feels very strongly about this topic and intended to make the songs nothing but ‘realistic’. “It’s a topic really dear to my heart because it’s so horrible, but also so common. I see a lot of it around… I think so many people don’t understand they’re being hurt or that it isn’t normal to feel like that in a relationship so I guess I made this EP for people like them. While making the EP, I guess a huge goal of mine was to make it realistic. I’ve never been in an abusive relationship, after all. So, through the music and the lyrics I wanted to make it seem as real as if I had, so everything had to be a certain way, the mood had to be brooding and thoughtful in pain and the lyrics had to be poetic but grounded. I also wanted to put forth my message in a way that’s not preachy because no one including myself wants to listen to a lecture. This is way more relatable than a sermon and also leaves a place for more emotion and understanding,” she explains.
The EP goes through a gamut of imagined experiences shaped into songs on a bed of synth & bass dark-pop such as:
Tearing Me Open: The artist’s personal favourite, Tearing Me Open represents the beginning of an abusive relationship, where the person feels terrible but can’t seem to understand why. It’s loving someone who doesn’t treat you right and not knowing what to do. The feel of the track is a sense of hope, hopelessness and deep sadness. Conversely, Aditi wanted the melody to be catchy, “since, I was thinking it would be too much of a downer given how sad the lyrics already are.”
Hollow: This was actually written as the fourth track, but as the artist says, “I’m releasing it second because you can’t really plan music. This is the second, more enlightened stage where you actually identify what’s wrong with the relationship and you kind of reflect on how your partner’s not who you thought they were. This stage is hugely important and it’s often overlooked because the mass media feeds us extremes when in reality everything is a process. Even I overlooked it, which is why I wrote it last. The feel of Hollow is a sense of dullness and mourning. I envisioned the melody as sharp and haunting with some metallic, high synths to depict a lingering thought.”
Withdrawals: This was both the third written and the third stage to an abusive relationship where “one called it off but something in you craves the person even though you know they’re bad for you. Kind of like drug addicts going through withdrawals,” says Aditi. The feel of Withdrawals is that of desperation mainly and a loss of logic. Aditi wanted the melody to, like Tearing Me Open, be “sort of fast-paced to portray a kind of recklessness in who I want to love despite the consequences”.
Your Photograph: While this is the second song the book lover wrote, it’s the last one in the EP. Your Photograph describes the most optimistic stage of an abusive relationship: when you leave it. Your Photograph is where Aditi would like to see the people who suffer, to be, “where they finally call it quits and realise what they’re worth. It was also the trickiest song I had to write because, more than the others, Your Photograph was under pressure to be perfect. It had to be powerful but not preachy and happy but not too happy. The main vibe is to feel empowered and free, but not like it never happened because that isn’t realistic. I wanted the tune darker and more somber than the others to highlight that,” concludes Aditi, who is inspired by the songwriting skills of Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo for the way two popular international singers make one picture their lyrics.
Music, Vocals, Composition & Lyrics by Aditi Iyer, with assistance from the Los Angeles CA-based Producer Ryan Benyo.
Dollhouse artwork concept & curation: Malvika Nanda, The Big Beat | Artwork design: Anushree Chatterjee
The tracks are available on all major streaming platforms | Click here to stream Dollhouse