“Bravado” is defined as boldness intended to impress or intimidate. Rose Cousins wholly embraces this identity on her new album, Bravado, as she takes an insightful and compassionate look at the human condition.
Following up her Grammy-nominated 2017 album Natural Conclusion, the Canadian folk singer uses the self-produced Bravado as an opportunity to not only analyze the unique ways we walk through life, but also express empathy while doing so.
She begins this journey by exploring the concept of solitude on “The Benefits of Being Alone.” Opening with an inviting piano instrumentation, she presents the ultimate guidebook to being one’s own company. As if waving the flag for the loners, wanderers, and gypsies who walk the earth, Cousins sings of proudly building a life for yourself by confidently making your own plans and venturing to places you’ve long wanted to roam, blending this sense of self with a dose humor. “If I don’t end up with anyone, could be six days to find my body gone,” she delivers with her pristine voice over a soaring trumpet section. Cousins puts the song in a new perspective with “The Reprise” that appears near album’s end, the piano-driven interpretation adding more emotion to the track and eliminating the humor that comes across in the original version. She offers a melancholy tone that feels more lonely than celebratory, showing off the multifaceted nature of her artistry.
She then delves into how we often wear metaphorical masks to hide our true feelings on “The Fraud,” particularly as she sings, “how will I see when somebody loves me?” before re-introducing the concept of feeling self-assured in seclusion. “Deep in the night you will find me, happiest when I’m alone, and it may be that it’s all that I need, it could be it’s all I know,” she sings, a sentiment she shares with crisp vocals on the song, which feels akin to a classical piece with its gorgeous string orchestration. This cinematic number is the prime setup for Cousins to engage in true soul searching on “The Time Being (Impending Mortality Awareness Society),” a simple, yet powerful reminder to stop and take in the dire needs in the world around us embodied in a fictional group that meets weekly to remind each other that fear is wasteful and “time is of the essence, more than finishing a sentence of penance and repentance.” She puts forth a subtle sense of urgency while adding wonderment with twinkling piano and stirring violin, making it one of the album’s gems.
She balances this examination of loneliness and acute social awareness with an essence of freedom that’s reflected in “The Swimmer (To Be an Old Man).” “Someday I will open my heart, and swim free among the waves,” she sings over an acoustic guitar, piano, and a gentle, yet storming drum in the background. She continues this on “The Lullaby (My Oldest Love),” a pure and beautiful plea for inner peace. “We walk around all hollowed out, we fill our cups with fear and doubt,” she sings, painting a scene with her haunting voice while begging for “ghosts of sleep” to wash her clean and “set me free.” Meanwhile, “The Benediction (A Good Woman)” conveys the various ways she seeks acceptance: aspiring to be a strong and reliable daughter, a kind and understanding sister, and attentive friend and lover.
Cousins ties this body of work together with a note of sincerity and appreciation through “The Return (Love Comes Back),” beautifully capturing the profound love we share with one another as mere mortals, whether it’s in our sympathetic words or the way we are one another’s support system in times of struggle, bringing an inspiring and uplifting feeling to the project.
With Bravado, Cousins continues to demonstrate why she’s long been revered as a poetic and heartfelt songwriter. When she proclaims in “The Benediction” that she hopes to be “a girl with her heart on fire,” it’s clear she’s already accomplished that goal through Bravado. Her ability to see through the pain and bleakness of the world to find the light that connects us all proves that she indeed has a fire that burns in her soul and catches to her music, art, and the world she’s so powerfully conscious of.