Bisexual Visibility Week: The Importance of The Aces' "Under My Influence"
The all-female pop band's sophomore album is one of the most significant albums for LGBT+ women.
Hailing from the conservative town of Provo, Utah, The Aces are an indie-pop band with catchy hooks, impressive guitar riffs, and an irresistible summer vibe. Members Cristal (vocals, guitar), Alissa (drums), Katie (lead guitar, vocals), and McKenna (bass) are self-taught musicians that have been in a band together since they were a young age. However, it was the moment that songwriter Lorde won her first Grammy at age eighteen that inspired the young women to pursue music professionally.
Since the release of their '80's-inspired, critically-acclaimed debut album When My Heart Felt Volcanic, The Aces have grown into a force to be reckoned with. Creating a loyal fan base called "Ace Faces", listeners were eager to hear more from the all-female group. As the release for their sophomore album grew closer, The Aces were ready to use their voices to create positive change as women in the music industry. Each member was outspoken about their support and participation in the Black Lives Matter protests. The album, which was initially meant to be released in June, was delayed by a month to show respect for the lives lost to police brutality. Most importantly, The Aces were ready to express themselves authentically, as proud queer women singing about their experiences in precise detail. Under My Influence is an infectious pop-rock record with brutally honest lyrics about the highs and lows of queer relationships, making it one of the most important records for LGBT+ women.
I was deeply impressed when I first discovered The Aces' debut in 2018. The gender neutrality in the lyrics were easy to sing along and relate to. As a bisexual woman, the upbeat songs from When My Heart Felt Volcanic played a major role in my queer experiences, but little did I know, The Aces had yet to show all of their colours to the world. Although the band made major waves, they were just scratching the surface of their potential as songwriters. In interviews surrounding the release, the quartet stated that "something was missing in their music". So The Aces made a commitment to be unapologetically themselves, to say everything they were too afraid to say on their first record. For the first time, the songs included pronouns to describe romantic relationships with women. This bold shift in the songwriting makes Under My Influence a poignant and powerful statement. By being deeply vulnerable, The Aces allow the experiences of thousands of queer women to be seen around the world. "Daydream" is a captivating lead single that draws the listener into this new world. Songs such as "New Emotion", "My Phone is Trying to Kill Me", and "Can You Do" explore falling in love, communication breakdowns, and standing in one's power as a sexual being. "All Mean Nothing", "Not Enough", and "Cruel" are upbeat pop-rock songs that serve the purpose of emotional purging after a breakup. The beauty of Under My Influence is that the songs are universal enough to be applicable to any relationship, whether straight or queer. However, as The Aces assumed the responsibility of representing the LGBT+ community, their vulnerability shines the brightest on the tracks "Kelly", "801", and "Thought of You".
Being the fourth promotional single for the record, "Kelly" is a vibrant, reggae-inspired tune with sweet harmonies and an epic guitar solo. The lyrics detail a story of unrequited love. Alissa and Cristal, the main songwriters, admitted that the original draft of the song was more generic and did not mention the name Kelly. However, the ultimate decision to be more explicit and sing openly about a woman gives a voice to an entire generation of queer women whose experiences have been vaguely represented in music. Gender neutral lyrics can only resonate so much for people dating outside of the heteronormative standard. "801" is brilliantly titled after the area code of The Aces' religious hometown in Utah. The smooth and mysterious composition brings the gay club scene to life as Cristal and company refuse to give into guilt or shame. In the lines "Lets leave all those things/ We were taught behind/'Cause being ourselves could never be a crime", the listener feels the potency of being under The Aces' influence. The narrative about the highs and lows of queer dating comes full circle towards the end of the album on the track "Thought of You". In an interview with Billboard, Alissa described this song as a love letter to a future romantic partner. Cristal lists the qualities she hopes to find in her "dream girl", stating that she needs to be "kind, patient, and loyal". Queer women all over the world have made similar wishes regarding a future girlfriend, myself included. The Aces' willingness to put this love letter into a song gives listeners permission to open their hearts to their true desires in romantic love. "Thought of You" lifts the glass ceiling imposed by heterosexism and allows women on the queer spectrum to want relationships with other women.
The Aces grew tremendously when writing and recording Under My Influence. Through this level of honesty and vulnerability, the record encourages listeners to let go of their guilt and grow along with the band. The devoted fanbase are inspired to live more freely and authentically because they supported The Aces along this journey. Under My Influence is one of the most important albums for LGBT+ women released in recent years. I am thankful that I was able to see so much of myself and my experiences throughout the unique songs listed above. On Bisexual Visibility Day, I stand as a queer woman and a proud Ace Face!
Cirisano, Tatiana. “Chartbreaker: Pop-Rock Quartet The Aces Were Inspired By Lorde To Get Serious.” Billboard, 5 Jan. 2018, www.billboard.com/articles/columns/pop/8070475/the-aces-stuck-interview-chartbreaker.
Daw, Stephen. “The Aces Break Down Their 'Soul-Baring' New Album 'Under My Influence,' Track-By-Track.” Billboard, 17 July 2020, www.billboard.com/articles/news/pride/9420177/the-aces-under-my-influence-track-by-track.