Emma Beko: Canada's Best Kept Secret

Photo by Carole Methot

I DON’T CARE WHERE I END UP IN LIFE, a late night drive listening to music will never get old. To each their own what gets thrown on the aux, but for those rides, there’s a special place in my heart for dark or mellow songs. Songs off Jack Harlow’s project Gazebo, lowkey Russ, and really any song Kid Cudi or 6lack have put out will 100% be in constant rotation. With that said, finding a project to throw on and listen to front to back is no easy task; rare even. And yet, Emma Beko makes it look just that on her solo-debut project, BLUE.

Getting her start in the industry as one half of Montreal’s Heartstreets, Beko’s recent solo transition has found her music moving in a new direction. While the duo produced more funky, bubbly, instrumental, and jazzy work, on her own, Beko darkened her sound, at times wearing her inspirations on her sleeve.

Even though I consider the entire tape “dark,” Waves really takes it to a whole other level. Taking advantage of a baseline and beat that clearly pays homage to Lil Peep, a musical inspiration of hers, Beko dives into some gloomy topics. Focusing on both dreaming about the world’s end and being drugged at a party, neither topics are uplifting, but both are vulnerable. She confronts her fears head on, challenging herself to face the issues weighing her down. Just a few songs earlier, on Ukulele, Beko raps “But I lovе myself a challenge, all is good whеn you find balance.” Actually witnessing an artist follow through on their lyrics is impressive outright, but so soon after the first statement? Nah, that shows a deeper dedication to her responsibility, willingness to grow, and need to fulfill her promises. Already honoring Peep through her sound choice, following his footsteps by accepting the challenges the world throws at her allows Beko to find success attacking her troubles head on through her work.

After listening through the project, you may come to the same conclusion I have: BLUE is the perfect title. It’s a little depressing, gloomy as hell, dives headfirst into anxiety, and throws in a lot of longing for a different/better time. Tracks like Alma and MHS will both trap you in the void Beko builds on the project. Weird has a “nice” mix of reminiscing and high-functioning anxiety. Even songs that may not approach topics that are dark, the songs feel dark. The intro Demo fits right into that category.

This brings me to the million dollar question: can Emma Beko be a mainstream mainstay? I’m not a betting man, but if I had to, I’d bet against it. There’s instances throughout BLUE where her flow feels off or she tries to force too many words into a line. I also question how unique her sound is. That’s not to say I don’t fuck with it, I absolutely do, but I’m afraid that Beko may get lost in the mix alongside other moody alt-rappers. Finally, I definitely could be wrong about this, but my gut tells me her main audience is Gen-Z. It’s not impossible, but if so, she could find issues keeping that fanbase if her music doesn’t continue to look backwards on her past. What happens when she’s in her 30s, using her music to look forward while her audience is barely in college? As a 29-year old artist, still being troubled by problems like these concerns me.

Now don’t get it twisted, I’m not saying Beko makes bad music, far from it actually. I wouldn’t spend the time if I thought her music was shit. Just, music meant for the mainstream? Nah, I don’t really see it. In my eyes, Emma Beko is a niche artist, capable of growing a real loyal cult following. She’s a best kept secret, and because I really do appreciate her work, I’ll do what I can to change all that, one late night drive at a time.

PERSONAL FAVORITES: Alma (feat. Karelle), Ukulele, MHS, Waves

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