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Live Review: Empress Of, Oscar Key Sung

21 June 2019 | 12:01 pm | Tobias Handke

"Empress Of gave this sold-out crowd a night they won’t forget in a long time."

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One of the most underrated artists to come out of Australia in recent years, Oscar Key Sung’s tremendous ability is on display as he serenades a bopping audience that’s almost reached capacity during his opening set. The experimental singer-songwriter blends the fragmented R&B of How To Dress Well with the glorious modern pop of newcomer Joji, all while remaining original in both sound and look. The first three songs are stripped-back and focus on the charismatic singer’s sublime vocals, while the latter half of his impressive performance is dominated by ‘90s house beats, turning the dancefloor into one big party.


Oscar Key Sung. Photos by Monique Pizzica.

In Australia for Dark Mofo, alternate R&B queen Empress Of, known to her parents as Lorely Rodriguez, has stopped off in Melbourne for an intimate sideshow at the always-fab Northcote Social Club. The crowd is in high spirits as the magnetic singer appears with her bandmate, introduced as "Erin", to loud applause. The two are dressed in '80s-esque pink prom outfits (made by Rodriguez’s mum) and take their positions behind adjacent keyboards and snares, with Erin also in charge of the drum machine. 

A short percussion-based intro leads into the slow jam Trust Me Baby, Rodriguez, a first generation Honduran-American, singing in both Spanish and English. “It’s so great to be here,” she exclaims with a huge smile on her face. “This is my first time in Melbourne. Here are a few songs in Spanish.” The swirling Everything To Me, a catchy electro-pop number that has everyone grooving along, follows the engaging In Dreams, creating a warm vibe that lasts all night.

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Empress Of. Photos by Monique Pizzica.

Rodriquez is a ball of energy, whether she’s behind the keys singing her heart out or front of stage dancing and encouraging the crowd to get involved. There’s something about her that draws you in and makes it hard to look away as she sings about life, love and experience. Her harmonies with Erin are beguiling and the two work well together; be it performing the pop-tastic Love For Me, which seamlessly transitions into the minimal R&B of Just The Same, or the electro house-influenced Water Water turning the dancefloor into a mass rave as hands punch the air.

“This song's about an ex,” Rodriguez explains during All For Nothing, while I Don’t Even Smoke Weed is another enchanting display of her ability to fuse electronica with R&B. When I’m With Him is a wonderful throwback to '90s pop and I’ve Got Love has everyone singing along with the catchy chorus, before How Do You Do It brings the set to a rowdy close.

Rodriguez and Erin return and she continues to thank the crowd before finishing with Again and a cover of Blood Orange’s Best To You. She might not be a household name just yet, but Empress Of gave this sold-out crowd a night they won’t forget in a long time. A future pop star in the making.