SASAMI Takes On the Complexity of Self in "Squeeze"

By Nia Tucker

SASAMI’s (she/her) biggest track to date, the lo-fi “Turned Out I Was Everyone,” is a desolate chant lamenting the fact that loneliness isn’t a singular or unique experience and how that very thought exacerbates one’s loneliness in a paradoxical loop. It repeats “Thought I was the only one/ Turned Out I Was Everyone,” in a haunting manner as the song builds towards a synth sound. In her new album, Squeeze, she steps out of that looped existential crisis, and creates a distinctly individual work that has her exploring new genres that range from metal, to classical interlude, to 70’s revival as she reckons with her full-range of emotions as a woman of color. 

“Skin a Rat,” the album opener, is a pleasingly violent track that has SASAMI living out a fantasy of revenge and destruction. It starts with a child singing tauntingly, “there are many ways to skin a rat,” before it explodes into heavy rock with all the works. Condemning a “hell fire economy,” screaming hoarsely about “crisis identity,” and threatening to destroy the powers that be with a “big, big boot.” The song was released as a single along with a majority of the 11-track album; other songs such as “Sorry Entertainer,” and “Say It,” gave a sneak peek into her metal capabilities and the strong sense of self and complexity that was hiding in her previous works. 

The album fluctuates between these unyielding heavy metal tracks and sing-around-the-campfire, 70’s songs reminiscent of Carole King’s sincerity and more saccharine in tone. 

SASAMI balances the two, intertwining the vastly different genres into one whole. In her essay “Uses of the Erotic,” activsit and writer Audre Lorde says:

“The erotic has often been misnamed by men and used against women. It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic, the plasticized sensation…The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire.” 

On Squeeze, SASAMI is reckoning with this duality. Should she be the siren-like, strong-willed and angered voice that she is in standout track “Say It,” or the regretfully sympathetic and desperately in love voice she takes on in “The Greatest.” These ideas battle one another, amalgamating chaos and passiveness into a work that is wholly erotic in its reclamation and bravery in expressing any and all emotions without fear of weakness.

The song’s first single “Sorry Entertainer,” a metal cover of folk experimental artist Daniel Johnston’s original discordant, playful deep-cut, was successful in that SASAMI was finding her footing in a genre largely occupied by vicious white men. It erupts in a loose cacophony of guitar, screams and bass that is indicative of what women of color have to bring to the genre. Aside from this, the other songs read as more formulaic, which makes sense considering SASAMI’s background in orchestral music at the Eastman School of Music. Each track makes you feel as if there could have been just one more step outside of itself for it to be perfect; they lack the level of mayhem that could make them more appealing rock songs. 

The album’s themes become more clear in the title track, which is a fusion of the sweetness of some tracks, and the darkness of others that coalesces into a trippy exploration of self as she and featured artist, No Home (they/them), echo one another singing, “I can transform / I can conform / Liquid body / I just wanna be / Free, free, free.” 

SASAMI has reached that “internal sense of satisfaction” as an artist that Lorde describes, but at the same time, song structure often holds her back.

Regardless, Squeeze makes you excited for what SASAMI has to come for the rest of her career, as it’s clear that her talent can take her across genres with ease.