Begonia Is Skyward-Bound on 'Powder Blue'

BY Erica Commisso Published Feb 22, 2023

Winnipeg's Alexa Dirks, otherwise known as pop powerhouse Begonia, doesn't care what people think of her. Her quick-witted, self-reflective lyrics trace a musical journey that's entirely her own, wrestling constantly with herself and her inner thoughts. Her latest record, the glittering Powder Blue, can be called a collection of songs just as honestly as it can be called a set of introspective poems set to music; a words-first form of pop music that holds introspection and catharsis in equal measure. 

Opening track "Chasing Every Sunrise" begins with a particularly poignant lyric performed a capella: "I like to walk the long way home in silence / to hear the dead leaves roll along highways," she croons, leading the listener into her own thoughts before the violins and beat-taps begin. The song then ends abruptly with a sharp breath in — it's a bit of a shock, though it makes a certain sense; the self-reflection cut short by some external interruption. 

Each melodic, meditative track perfectly highlights the strength of Begonia's powerful, rich voice, while the dramatic melodies — even those that include alien, show-stealing synths like the divine "Heaven" — only serve to complement the vocals rather than detract from them. 

"Married by Elvis" feels exactly like the tune that would soundtrack the quiet internal monologue of a stumbling bride, rolling up the aisle to be married by the King of Rock and Roll (or a sweaty approximation anyway). Begonia's voice is sweet and gentle, the notes of romance and infatuation apparent in her intonation and the smoothness of the delivery, reminiscent of an Etta James love song. 

Perhaps Powder Blue's catchiest track, the Halsey-style break-up tune "I'm Not Dying" rides a distinct jazz flavour, with Begonia examining the end of a romantic relationship. She realises she's better off without it and lyrically settles into her own self-worth — "You ain't on my mind no more / I can tell you that for sure," she sings on the sundrenched chorus. "Remember when you went away / Thought I'd never be the same / And now I'm smiling everyday / And I'm not dying." The lyrics detail one of the most relatable stories in love's history, with Begonia letting her guard down for a charming person and losing herself in the relationship, only for it to end. Crucially though, the strength she finds at the end is the real message — she's finally living. 

Begonia has continued to mature with each release, growing more comfortable in her own skin and her clear-eyed musical voice. Her self-confidence is exemplified by tracks like "Marigold," in which she ponders bisexuality, and the dramatic ninth track "Crying," where she admits to her own complicated relationship with self-image, from experiences with childhood bullies to internet trolls. "Now you call me fat like it hurts me / But I turned off my Google alerts, see / Because what's thicker than my thighs is the resolve inside to never let you see me cry." The music offers a Hozier-like operatic setting (complete with choir chants), while her calm vocals suggest acceptance of herself, flaws and all, while still commanding attention.  

The record puts Begonia's internal world on full display, a complex and beautiful diorama dressed by her impeccable vocals and sparse, inventive production — Alexa Dirks has always felt fully formed, but on Powder Blue, she transcends. 
(Birthday Cake)

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