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  • Karlee Skipper

EP Review: "Void" - Winona Oak


Winona Oak has poured out her heart in her latest EP, Void. The vulnerable project was a cathartic journey for the artist, after experiencing the “worst year” of her life. In 2023, Oak unfortunately lost her mother from a longtime battle with cancer. When discussing the background of the EP, she explains: “I lost a part of myself that I will never get back.” Understandably, the grief consumed her, forcing the artist to learn how to “live with half a heart.” In the midst of this mourning and devastation, Void was created. The title represents the feeling inside her heart, living without the person she loves the most. She released her pain through her raw and honest lyrics, holding nothing back. Instead, she gives listeners an insight on herself more than she could ever explain. These six tracks are a crucial part of Oak’s story, and anyone who has felt grief can resonate with her poignant lyrics.

  

Track List

With Or Without You

Fire Escapes

Fragile Thing

If I Were To Die

Who Would I Be

Inside Out

 

Winona Oak is a Swedish pop singer-songwriter, now based in Los Angeles. She made her debut in 2018 with several electrifying singles. In February, her first single was a collaboration with What So Not for their song, “Beautiful”. This track won Best Independent Dance/Electronica/Club Single at the AIR Independent Music Awards. In October, her first standalone single was released—a cover of Haim’s “Don’t Save Me”. However, December of that year saw her biggest hit when she was featured on The Chainsmokers’ sophomore album, Sick Boy, for the song, “Hope”. She received her first RIAA-Certified Gold single for their collaboration. The following year she released her first original single, “He Don’t Love Me”. This was the lead track for her 2020 EP, Closure, and her 2022 debut LP, Island of the Sun. Oak has performed live on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and earned praise from industry tastemakers. With over 1 million monthly listeners on Spotify and nearly 500 million streams on the platform alone, Oak has already made massive waves in the industry. Follow her on all social media to keep updated with any new music and announcements!

 

With Or Without You

Oak opens the project with the heart-wrenching and vulnerable lead single, “With Or Without You”. From the title alone, one can deduce what the song may be about, given they know the backstory. Paired with a melancholic piano-led soundscape, Oak’s haunting vocals share how difficult it is to grieve in a world that never slows down. Time keeps passing by and everyone around her is expecting her to move on, but what is she supposed to do when the one person she always went to when life got tough is gone? In the chorus, Oak sings, “You’re irreplaceable, there’s only one of you// I don’t understand how the word can move, when it’s missing you// Something must be wrong, when life goes on// With or without you.” These lyrics rip the listener’s heart out as they empathize with the singer’s intense loss and relate the somber lyrics back to their own personal stories. Oak originally wrote the track at the end of 2022 when she realized she was going to lose her mom. In honor of her mother, the singer pledged to donate a portion of the track’s proceeds to the Swedish Cancer Institute.



Fire Escapes

“Fire Escapes” was the second single released prior to the album. Oak’s stunning voice is paired with a soft acoustic guitar that immediately engulfs the listener. The indie-folk acoustic atmosphere is paired with an alt-pop production that is reminiscent of some of my personal favorite songs. The flawless song shares the singer’s fear of commitment, being ready to run at the first sign of danger. Her paranoid thoughts rule her mind and she finds faults in everyone she meets. In the pre-chorus, she sings, “It’s like I keep on hurting people, just to stop them hurting me back.” She admits that she sabotages every relationship because it is easier than being left. This is something she does not love about herself, but she has seen love fall apart—whether her own or those around her. So, to prevent her from being burned, she continues to build fire escapes. While the whimsy soundscape drew me in, these deep metaphors and clever imagery are what made me fall in love with “Fire Escapes”.



Fragile Thing

As the project continues, Oak resumes to open up a different part of herself. In “Fragile Thing”, she shares a more vulnerable and even hopeful part of herself. The delicate piano soundscape and soft synth waves effortlessly guide the listener through the track. Oak’s mesmerizing vocals confess her innermost thoughts about a loved one. She loves them deeply, not intending to let them go, contradicting her previous track. She has found the person that she wants—the person she will not build a fire escape to run from. Instead, she tells her muse that her “heart’s a fragile thing” without them. She feels incomplete without them around. They make her feel safe and cared for, and she knows her heart is safe in their hands. She never wants to lose them and wants to hold on to them forever. It is a sweet sentiment following the previous track, perhaps hinting at a shift in the singer’s outlook on love and relationships.



 If I Were To Die

“If I Were To Die” begins with a psychedelic intro that blends into the background, instantly captivating the audience and enticing them to stay for the entire ethereal song. In the chorus, the soft soundscape changes into a synth-heavy production that differs from the acoustic folk soundscapes of the previous tracks. However, the lyrics contain similar themes to the last song, “Fragile Thing”. Oak admits her anxiety about losing her muse and reveals the deep feelings she has for them. The singer calls the track “a love song but with a dark twist.” In the verses, she shares the nervous feeling in the back of her mind that catastrophe is going to happen. But in the pre-chorus, reality comes back and she knows that “everything is sunshine.” They are in love and nothing will change that. The chorus is where it gets bleak. She sings: “If I were to die in a car with you tonight// I wouldn’t be this good alone alive// If we were to fly out the window to the ground// I wouldn’t be this good alone alive// I’d happily die with you by my side.” Oak confesses that she is afraid to lose her partner—whether by choice or by death. But she would rather die alongside them than go on without them. About the track, Oak has revealed that the message stems from her “coping mechanism to protect” herself from vulnerability. When things appear to be too good to be true, she conjures images of catastrophic events that will ruin her happiness—preparing for the worst. The introspective song leaves the listener in awe with the powerful instrumentation, the strong vocals, and the imaginative lyrics.



Who Would I Be

The shift in the production changes again with the alt-rock instrumentation that showcases Oak’s genre-bending talent and ability to make multiple sounds fit together. While her vocals are phenomenal on each song, they shine brightest on “Who Would I Be”. The passion behind her voice moves the listener as they relate to the vulnerable lyrics. Oak shares her insecurities, wishing she was someone else. She desires to be the person she is in her dreams who is secure in their beauty and personality. Instead of getting pulled down by heartbreak and worry, she would never feel pain again. But in the end, she admits: “If I didn’t know anxiety, then who would I be?” Her anxious thoughts and insecurities have raced through her mind for so long, that she believes it is a vital aspect of her personality. Without it, she would not resemble the person she is now. These lyrics naturally resonate with the listener, making them feel less alone in their own internal battles



Inside Out

The final track includes a collaboration from Swedish artist and friend, Boy in Space. With one last genre change, Oak concludes the project with an electro-pop love song. The track details the unconditional love in a relationship, where, despite the flaws, the couple still loves each other anyway. Throughout the song, Oak and Boy in Space sing sweet lyrics of their partner seeing them through a lens they cannot even fathom. They confess that they “don’t see a good side” in themselves, but still, their muse knows them from the inside out. The bridge contains my favorite lyrics as the two artists harmonize: “Don’t have to hide your darkness// Let me carry it for a while //Never have to cry in silence// Everything that’s yours is mine.” These lines have two potential interpretations. One is the muse has now taken over the perspective, singing to the original narrator that they have their back no matter what. The other may be that the original narrator is reciprocating this unconditional love, caring for them through the darkness. Regardless of what the listener believes, there is no question that this track is a beautiful love song that describes what it means to find someone you trust with your heart.



Void is an outstanding project containing six flawless tracks that mesmerize audiences. With each new song, Oak blew me away with her stunning soundscapes and poetic lyricism, making me instantly want to dive into her entire discography. From the heartbreaking song about grief to the hopeful track about love, Oak showcases her dynamic talent— in both storytelling and soundscapes. Not one song sounded like the other, and yet, the entire EP marvelously blended into a perfect soundscape. Void marks a new era of music for the singer. With plans to release more later this year, fans wait patiently for what other genius creations the artist has up her sleeve!


Written By Karlee Skipper


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