Exuberance, sheer confidence and innate understanding of just what makes pop special provide a stunning entry into a distinct and idiosyncratic world
Ever since she started making music as CMAT in 2019, following an inspiring and life changing chat with modern pop icon Charli XCX, Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson has cultivated a persona as a true pop legend, self-styled as “Global Celebrity Teen Pop Sensation From Ireland”. She hasn’t yet scaled the charts or headlined festival stages, but in her head and her heart she’s is already the best pop star in the entire world. It’s that exuberance, sheer confidence and innate understanding of just what makes pop special beyond the music that makes her so compelling, and her debut album If My Wife New I’d Be Dead is a stunning entry into her distinct and idiosyncratic world.
Much of CMAT’s persona and brilliance is in her personality and desire to both poke fun and herself and the nonsense of pop while retaining the ability to make resonant and engaging songs that emotionally cut through and pierce emotionally. It’s a rare skill to be both silly and devastatingly tender, and it’s all here to revel in.
CMAT’s sound is a blend of both the old and the new. Her influences ride the entire pop spectrum, from country legends like Loretta Lynn to other more modern, ahem, legends like The Darkness, there isn’t a corner of pop’s history that Ciara hasn’t immersed herself in. It all manifests itself in an incredibly accomplished collection of songs. If there is a sound centring the album it’s her deep long held love of country music. The songs are not country songs necessarily, but that aesthetic ties everything together, highlighted by her beautiful distinctive voice. It soars on opener Nashville, and tenderly quivers on big weepy, hold your loved ones tight ballad Lonely.
If you’re a fan of CMAT from her quite brilliant online work – from quirky Christmas video extravaganzas to call in agony aunt phone lines and all sorts of super fun pop silliness – you might not be prepared to be emotionally cut down by songs like heartfelt closer I’d Want You of or the timeless graceful waltz of Groundhog Day, on which she sings plaintively: “I can’t keep letting you down, so give up on me”. There isn’t really anyone else in pop at the moment making music like this, and there’s a palpable sense of freedom and vibrancy on the bangers that really illuminate the record, like the super smart takedown of Every Bottle (Is My Boyfriend) or the genius fantasy of I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby!
The dichotomy between humour and emotional exploration of the soul is at the heart of everything CMAT does. She’ll make you double over laughing or break down in floods of tears, often just in the same song. She’s a pop star who knows the power of music and persona, and how she can be an inspiration and a friend for the people listening. The cult of CMAT is all about self expression and doing exactly what you want to without being scared to look or sound ridiculous. She may not ever get to the stage of really being the biggest pop star on the planet, but that doesn’t really matter, she’s gonna have the time of her life trying, and hopefully change some other people’s lives along the way. CMAT is a new pop voice to be cherished, to which this album provides a beautiful introduction.