Dreamer Isioma Finds Beauty in Duality on 'Princess Forever' [Album Review]

Kieran Kohorst

No matter what you tell yourself, you’re not the same person when you’re in love than who you are otherwise. Dreamer Isioma doesn’t even try to live this lie: on their new love-struck album, they adopt an alter ego capable of tackling the themes at the heart of the music and in the heart of Dreamer. The album title is indebted to this character, Princess Forever, a leader rebellious enough to stand against the oppressive regime that is society in the name of community, while simultaneously finding their own personal liberation. It’s an ambitious concept, one that could suffer reckless consequences if not entrusted to the thorough visionary that is Dreamer Isioma.

The hidden truth is that love is more learning about yourself than your partner. On Princess Forever, we hear Dreamer figuring this out in real time. They share that the album was conceptualized post-transition for them personally, while they were just beginning to embrace their femininity. “These tracks take you through my journey of falling in love while unlearning cultural misogyny and fighting against political bullshit,” they say of the album’s ethos. Though the themes on this concept album are close to home for Dreamer, Princess Forever’s setting seems to be in a distant universe, an immersive environment where emotions are heightened beyond the person. This world comes into view in the music videos for singles “Touch Your Soul” and “Technicolor Love," where both color and shape-shifting realities tell the story of Dreamer’s complicated existence, one that they share with listeners alike.

Naturally, at the center of this universe is Dreamer, dictating the tides with their conceptions of self and interpretations of those around them. “I gave her a Saturn ring then she shattered me / Pieces of my heart fill up the galaxy,” they sing distantly on “Saturn Ring,” admitting their inherent centrality. Everything orbits around Dreamer, making every element of Princess Forever feel like a distinct extension of their person. The guitars that permeate the album sound as if they’re being played with Dreamer’s heartstrings, courageous even if often lost; the drums beat like their pulse, giving life to the depths of their adoration and sorrow the same.

Though arriving towards the end of the album, “Venus Versus Mars” is the thesis statement of Princess Forever. Here, Dreamer is boldly poetic about the driving forces of the album: “Love’s the only war I’m a stranger to,” they harmonize on the chorus. Unobstructed by the conflict at hand, they continue, “Let’s fight together, boo / If I’m the God of war, can you be my truce?” Delivered as the alter-ego Princess Forever, the power of this sentiment is in its duplicity; is Princess Forever addressing a loved one or are they encouraging Dreamer to continue on this journey with the added strength of a new identity? While both are plausible and profound, it is not the only case of duplicity on the album. In fact, most elements of Princess Forever wander into multiplicity, shattering binary restrictions and becoming transcendent in regard to classification. The music is an amalgamation of genres, namely R&B, psychedelic rock, funk, Afrobeats, and pop. Their voice is at times animated, disconnected, altered, pure, and dreamy. As much as Dreamer is defined by the world around them, they shape their identity from their most essential traits, such as their Nigerian heritage that is rightfully honored on the Merlyn Wood-featured “Touch Your Soul.” Their lyrics can sway from the vastly metaphorical to the simply sublime: “You treat me right, I savor this… / You’re so effortless,” they muse on the passionately lush ballad “Starz.” To exist in so many dimensions and mediums proves Dramer’s creativity is truly singular, even in its multiplicity.

Shared with the release of Princess Forever is the music video for “Gimmie A Chance,” a track as lustful as the title suggests in the spirit of acceptance both personally and societally. A sci-fi-tinted lens sees the character of Princess Forever coming face to face with the Creator of the Universe, the two living the narrative of the track through their interactions. “I’m heavy with my hands and heavy with my heart,” they rap, pleading for redemption at the hands of a higher power.

Nowhere else is Dreamer Isioma’s ambition better symbolized than the concept of Princess Forever, an artistic leap-of-faith that lands thanks to their extraordinary ability to balance an ensemble of priorities and themselves. It’s hard to tell where Princess Forever ends and Dreamer Isioma begins, both possessing an allure of near-celestial status. Princess Forever is a personal journey for Dreamer that is told in astounding color, a picture of an artist with full control and no doubts about their direction.

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