Part of growing into adulthood is learning to trust your own voice. That is exactly what neo-soul luminary Rozzi set out to do on her “dangerously personal” sophomore release, Berry.
The much-anticipated Berry arrives three years after the San Francisco-born singer’s 2018 debut, Bad Together, which followed a series of high-profile collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Pusha T, plus a sold-out arena tour supporting Maroon 5. Unlike Bad Together, which Rozzi calls a “narrative experience” based on chronological events, Berry features a selection of vignettes that pick up where her debut left off: some songs were written as far back as 2018 and some are as fresh as a few months old.
Featuring Rozzi’s smoky, full-bodied vocals, with songs that move seamlessly from upbeat pop, funk and R&B to low-key acoustic ballads, and a special contribution from iconic guitarist Nile Rodgers, Berry is ultimately an expansive record about growth, learning to trust your instincts, and, ultimately (“because I like a happy ending,” Rozzi laughs), embracing new love and change.
Recorded in London and New York, in person and remotely, the majority of Berry was made with celebrated producer George Moore, whom Rozzi calls “amazing”. She continues: “I tracked him down because he produced this song called ‘Evergreen’ for YEBBA. I think she's actually the greatest singer alive right now. I love her and I love his production on that track.”
That emotional spectrum is captured in the album’s name: “A berry is all the things that I hope my album is,” Rozzi says. “Juicy and rich and maybe a little bit sour. There's something sexy about the word to me - but in a really honest way — like, you feel sexy, not like you're trying to be sexy. The album is so emotional, and for some reason, a berry just seems like the right way to express that.”
The title track, meanwhile, is a spare, softly strummed love song dedicated to the singer’s boyfriend: “First knew I loved you that day on Berry Drive, but I think I could love you for the rest of my life,” she sings, tossing in a sweet reference to the street in her home of Los Angeles.
Rozzi again pens a powerful love song on the stripped-down “fflow,” which is written with two “ff”s in tribute to her partner. “I was like, holy shit, 'flow' backwards is ‘wolf,’ which is my boyfriend's last name, only his is spelled ‘Wolff.’ ‘Flow,’ is not a word I use often,” she continues, “so it was all the more strange that it had such an obvious double meaning. The song is so blatantly about our relationship, it felt too ‘meant-to-be’ not to play up the spelling.”
Over the years, Rozzi has carved out a powerful niche as a singer-songwriter who is unafraid to share the depths of her soul with audiences. As it was on Bad Together, her ability to connect over shared experience and universal moments is at the forefront of Berry. On the bold, R&B-styled “I Can’t Go To The Party,” Rozzi explores the mix of anxiety and longing around bumping into an ex out in public. “Sometimes I feel silly, talking about a boyfriend,” she admits. “But the songs aren’t really just about a boyfriend. They’re about being changed by someone and how that makes you grow.”
Elsewhere, Rozzi celebrates the power of female friendship in the bouncy, jubilant “Best Friend Song,” which she wrote when her closest friend and roommate moved out. “It was like the end of an era,” she says, referencing a famous episode of Friends. “Kind of like when Rachel moves out and Chandler moves in. I think ‘Best Friend Song’ really captures our friendship, almost down to an inside joke degree.”
Later, the funk-infused “Consequences” features a guest spot from Rodgers, who also co-produced. “I love that he has a raging guitar solo,” Rozzi says of Rodgers, whom she calls a hero. “That’s not a common thing on pop records. Just having him wail on it is such a dream come true.”
Finally, closing out Berry is the grooving “I dk,” which not only features prominent bass lines from Duran Duran’s John Taylor, but also tinkling keys from Bryn Bliska.
While Berry celebrates new love and bids farewell to old relationships, ultimately Rozzi’s latest album represents a pact with herself. Though she’s had remarkable success through various collaborations, tours, movie placements, and even started a podcast (“Ugh! You’re So Good!” with co-host Scott Hoying of Pentatonix), this next chapter is about the singer trusting her ability to design her own destiny.
“I think I've had a really hard time listening to my own voice in the past,” she says. “But the events that led up to making this record put me in a position where I feel like I finally made a change and can trust my own instincts in a different way. And I don't think I could do that until now.”