"But you took the fun out of falling in love," RALPH sings on "Took the Fun" off her new EP, Gradience. A simple enough track with an unassuming percussive melody, but somehow, its repeating chorus pierces through the innocent exterior, revealing the rabbit hole that the Canadian singer fell down when recording her latest offering.
On the surface, Gradience—the first EP to be released on her own label, Rich Man Records— seems like a natural follow-up to 2019's Flashbacks & Fantasies: yet another dance inspired project that pulls from disco and nostalgic 80s influences in a modern synth setting. Tracks like "Tommy" and "Love Potion" take cues from her debut EP and refine the sugary pop sound with more sophisticated bass riffs and soft choruses that play to her vocal strengths. But then, the latter half changes its tune ever so slightly with more revealing lyrics—"you played the part, I think about the time you brought my mom flowers"—and convivial compositions that seem to challenge the summer anthem by offering something just as worthy of a sunny day at the beach without shoving it down your throat.
The greatest surprise, however, is its closing track, "Rules of Love," a soft piano ballad that breaks free from the mold and sees RALPH tap into her vulnerability without the cover of a pop song for the first time. Weaving an all too familiar heartbreak story, she eschews sweeping declarations in favor of personal moments and poetic ruminations, her voice finding its strength in the honesty of it all. While it signifies an ending to an EP that doesn't show an overwhelming amount of artistic growth, it feels like the beginning of something else for the pop artist— a craving for exploration, an awakening of hidden talents, or perhaps just a crawl deeper into the rabbit hole, to see what else she may find.