Elm Street in Sofia Zarzuela’s words is the “perfect, suburban, American location.” Not only does the street name cause people to think of suburbia or Freddy Kreuger, but it reminds Zarzuela of where she previously lived on the Oberlin College Campus, in Oberlin, Ohio.
Zarzuela is a 20-year-old student and an up-and-coming artist who recently released her second EP consisting of five songs in various styles.
Drawing inspiration from her own experiences, pop music and horror – which Zarzuela believes is tied to the idea of women continuously being overlooked and omitted in Horror tales – “121 Elm Street” was born.
“121 Elm Street was going to be a full-length album and I was going to record it all over winter break of my sophomore year as a school project,” Zarzuela explained when talking about her original plans for the EP.
“I felt like I was hitting a dead end with a lot of the songs and I wasn’t able to complete it. I was really frustrated,” Zarzuela said.
This led her to push the project to her spring break, which ended up being when the nationwide shutdown hit due to COVID-19. The EP was finished in isolation at her family’s home with help from Zarzuela’s dad.
She credits him for some of the variation in song styles, since he has experience with sound engineering.
“It would not have been half as good if I didn’t have him,” she said when talking about the collaboration.
Zarzuela recently gained a lot of new attention thanks to TikTok. She made a short video of her lip-syncing and dancing to one of her own songs off of “121 Elm Street” that ended up garnering around 50 thousand views.
“Making myself known on social media was and continues to be really scary, but I also feel lucky that I am very literate on social media,” said Zarzuela. “For the most part I had 200 listeners a month for the last year or two. Then I put up that video on Tik Tok and now it’s 2,700 listeners a month.”
The first song on the EP, and the song behind the lucky TikTok video, is a great introduction to Zarzuela. Her lyrics cover the loneliness and repetition that can come with college life. The track tells the story of someone who wants to be wanted and carries the idea of “compulsory heterosexuality,” which is a big theme throughout the album, especially in this song.
Although the song starts slower and softer, do not be deceived. It is filled with strong drums and bass, which give it a heavy and enjoyable feel. It is poppy, with a small taste of punk and rock that really elevate it. The end of the song goes back into a slower more delicate sound, with a harmonic decrescendo, that brings the listener down from the satisfactory high of “Boys.”
When talking to Zarzuela she talked about how she is musically inspired by choral music and choir harmonies, which is really proven through this song. With piano, strings and synth instrumentals, this track is a complex yet unpretentious way to express an infatuation with someone and “hanging around just to try to feel desired.”
This is a slower more subdued song off the EP, but it isn’t boring. Zarzuela’s lyrics tell the story of this person who wants nothing more than to be admired by the person they admires. The imagery she uses, and her word choice, allow the listener to picture the exact scenes and feelings this person is living through.
Subjectively, one of the most descriptive and emotional lyrics off of this album is in this song.
“I wish that I could spit it all back into your mouth but/ I melt into the wall like decoration in your house/ Still I’d rather sleep in your room and feel alone/ Then go back into my own feeling whole,” Zarzuela sings.
“Vaseline” is a pop song with hints of Doja Cat and girl in red. It has a great electronic sound that blends smoothly with Zarzuela’s silvery voice, making it an easy and enjoyable listen.
“My dad added all these drums and filters” said Zarzuela when recalling the process of making “Vaseline.”
“I remember saying to him, ‘I want part of this to sound like “Say So” by Doja Cat’ and he was able to figure out exactly how to do it, which has been really really cool,” said Zarzuela.
I Wanna Go Outside
This song is incredibly intricate if the listener pays enough attention. In the background, Zarzuela has more of the choral vocals and synth sounds she admires, along with sounds of crickets, the outdoors and a variety of percussion that really give the song a nourishing foundation.
In her words, this is “an album that’s written about feeling like you need to have a boyfriend to be normal.”
However, it can be much more to whoever listens to it. The emotion Zarzuela puts into her music draws out a personal response from the audience.
“My dream, as an artist, is that people will listen to my music and be like ‘Oh, I’m adding this to my break-up playlist’ or will cry to my songs and really relate to them. That’s the most intimate way I connect with other people’s music,” said Zarzuela.
This album is definitely worth a listen. Zarzuela is a talented young artist who has the ability to be something big and this five-track introduction is just the beginning.
To hear the full interview with Zarzuela, tune into KCPR on April 23 at 12 pm!