Playful & Powerful EP // Romance, Sexual Desires & Coming of Age

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Tess Elena, born and raised in New York City, is an independent artist who has catapulted her name into the limelight with her soulful, jazz-infused take on the indie pop, folk genres. Her playful lyricism and bold flair have cemented her as a musical force within the singer-songwriter community. Driven by her degree in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies, her feminist roots inspired her music by everyday life as a woman and her personal experiences as she grows and moves through the world.

Her debut EP, Fire Escape, is a collection of songs written after returning to NYC from living abroad in Thailand and being thrown back into the big city hustle environment. The story behind these songs are a compilation of romantic relationships, sexual desires, and coming of age. Strong, introspective, and reminiscent, the EP oozes with soul, emulating raw emotion, and dancing between playful yet insightful and powerful yet vulnerable. 

“Subway DMs” shows the often shamed sexual side to women in a consenting way. Written about meeting a cute guy on the subway and feeling the sexual tension, she speaks of the push and pull of wanting to be forward but also wanting the other person to make a move. This totally catchy and fun single is certain to be stuck in your head all day long, as we see the musician playing with different genres and instruments. 

Then there is “Emotion Mommy,” a commentary on the unfair distribution of emotional labor in romantic partnerships and how to create clear healthy boundaries. Elena shares, “I didn’t want to be the emotional caretaker in my relationships. I wanted to capture how women in romantic relationships often carry an invisible weight of emotional labor that is often at an unfair level compared to their male partners. It started with this concept of “Emotion Mommy” that felt like it was a form of parenting in a way. I realized that it wasn’t fair to be performing all of the emotional labor in the relationship and that it should be an equal partnership. As I wrote the song, I started to think of lyrics that would demonstrate motherhood in a romantic relationship.” The empowering single enters with sultry vocals and moody instrumentation, suddenly picking up in the chorus, with jangly guitars and infectious harmonies creating a memorable listening experience. 

Title-track “Fire Escape” shows how the songwriter’s safe space of creativity and growth of her childhood fire escape became a similar feeling in the romantic relationship she is in currently. Raw and honest, this sweet track peels back layers to the songwriter as she gives us a glimpse into her intimate feelings. 

Lastly, “Heart Attack” is a coming of age heartbreak song that shows the vulnerability of a girl’s first love. The artist confides, “All of these songs together create a unified full picture of what my lived experience is as a woman today. I want to show what I believe the tapestry of being a woman can look like, with all the nuance and complexity of being a human being. It’s important for artists to demonstrate through song, what we believe we are allowed to be, especially as a woman.”

Having been commissioned by the United Nations to write and perform an original song for their Youth Assembly in 2017, Elena has since then gone to create a band and perform at venues all around NYC. Her highly-anticipated EP, Fire Escape, is certain to turn heads as we see Tess Elena on the rise.

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