Winona Oak is one of the undeniably successful 2020 artist debuts. Even though she made herself visible with guest appearances and stunning covers before, her official debut came on the 10th of January this year with the EP Closure.

I was hypnotized by the incredible aesthetics, tender voice, soothing instrumentals, and emotional lyrics. The more I heard, the more I fell in love with Winona Oak – those are my thoughts on her music and her first two EPs.

After a lot of patience and backstage preparation, Winona Oak joined the wave riding the very top of artist debuts this year. Her bold, confident steps led to two EPs marking the first chapter of her blooming career.

The Swedish rising star is no stranger to the music world – she has been entrenched in the art since she was five years old. Her unique charisma and irresistible vibe showed their power with several covers and guest appearances (as a co-writer and guest singer) including What So Not’s Better and Stuck In Orbit, as well as The Chainsmokers’ chart-topping single Hope (where, I dare say, Oak completely steals the show).

The young artist’s potential is fascinating. You will likely be bewitched on the very first listen, no matter which song you encounter. Soothing vocals with flawless execution and a hypnotizing blend of simple instrumentals with various influences make up for her distinguishable presence. It’s overwhelming in the best possible way.

Meet the artist

Winona Oak is the necessary refreshing touch to modern pop music. Her simple, minimalistic tunes and beat-structure contain a captivating vintage element which merges with her stunning voice and intimate songwriting. Waiting for her to enter the scene was worth it as the two EPs gracefully showcase the unique image of the artist and leave you excited for her future.

The start of her journey features a heavy focus on (dark)pop, electronic dance bangers, and anthems of self-love and appreciation with the necessary amount of heartbreak and vulnerability. Both EPs strike with a mesmerizing dynamic of ballad-like sounds with an upbeat electronic influence. The total of 10 songs released in 2020 showcase the irresistible charm and jaw-dropping presence of Winona Oak. And this is just the start.  

My first encounter with Winona was her debut EP Closure – a beautiful display of vulnerability, raw emotion, and touching love-focused themes. Each track on the EP goes through different stages of love intoxication, painful heartache, and post-break-up clarity. All of them are presented in the distinguishable style Winona Oak can comfortably claim as her own.

The black and white video aesthetic is to die for

He Don’t Love Me kicks things off with electronic bass-boosted sound and simple but effective beat structure. The song tells the tear-jerking story of one-sided affection. The unpleasant realization your love will not be answered accordingly takes shape with this perfect soundtrack for the occasion.

It is a great song to drown your sadness in and a reminder to reflect on the love’s blurring of clear judgement at times.  

We’re all capable of falling for people who don’t value us, grasping for a leaving hand. But we must understand that we’re just as capable of realizing that our worth does not lay in those heavy hands.

Winona Oak

Break My Broken Heart sounds like a subtle continuation of the previous song. It deals with the uncertainty of falling in love with everything you’ve got, the acceptance of the risk that your heart will be shattered in the end, and the hope that it will all be worth it after all. The vocal execution, addictive chorus build-up, and trippy beat progress are truly mesmerizing.

The song, just like Oak’s whole artistic persona, has the noticeable retro vintage vibe mixed with modern influences to create something astonishing.

It made me realize that you have to be brave to love someone with all your heart – and if you don’t take the risk you’ll end up with nothing to lose

Winona Oak

The happy, beautiful side of love gets the deserved attention as well. Control and Let Me Know both embrace the positives of this phenomenon – Control is a dance anthem with captivating storytelling focused on illustrating the tingling process of falling for someone who becomes your whole world.

All night, you got me tongue tied
Can’t find the words to speak my mind
Got so high on being by your side
Think I just lost all of my pride

Let Me Know puts the focus elsewhere – it has a sweet, heartwarming vibe from start to end. The song is uplifting and positive with an inspiring undertone – it brims with appreciation for the person you love and emphasizes that all past heartbreaks and failed relationships were a necessary element for finding the right person.

Lonely Hearts Club has a sadder thematic but puts forth a very comforting and reassuring feeling with a mellow, gentle melody and vocal execution. It is a post-break-up track exploring the ways of trying to numb the pain. The song depicts the transition stage between being emotionally broken and moving on with new strength.

It also does the important job of highlighting the message that no one is alone in this draining struggle – the feelings explored in the song are a normal part of life we all go through eventually.

The closing track of the EP serves as the appropriate sum-up of Winona Oak’s music so far. It explores a failed relationship and has an overwhelming emotional substance. The sacrifices and personal changes that you go through for the sake of a relationship just to discover that the other person is not willing to do the same are unapologetically exposed.

I changed myself
Way too many times
I didn’t wanna lose him
But I’m better off without his games
He’s not the one to change

The song has storytelling in several acts that illustrate the whole process. Despite the overall sad tone, it all ends positively with the conviction that another story – a better one, will soon be written and happiness will be found by staying true to yourself.

For my little heart, I’m sorry
One day, we gonna write another story about
A man who loves me right
For my little heart, I’m sorry

Winona’s second EP She is a bold step forward and a subtle switch of attitude. While it still features the emotional vulnerability and love-inspired stories, there is a more confident and aggressive side of the artist visible in the title track and the badass self-love anthem With Myself.

The title track is way darker with a more energetic, versatile sound drifting away from the love-oriented thematic. High-pitched and chaotic at times, the song still sounds beautiful amidst the dark atmosphere. It presents a self-exposition of a different side of one’s personality – the one that slightly scares you but is still very much a real part of your whole. It has strong symbolism and powerful sound that make it a real delight in all possible ways.

With Myself is another song with a different atmosphere. Here, the focus is on badass energy and another dynamic explosion of sound and vocals. The song is an anthem for self-love and appreciation presented via a break-up. Winona confidently emphasizes the importance of valuing yourself and realizing you are enough to make yourself happy.

I’m thinking about my body
All the places that I want me
I don’t need nobody else
Know how to handle myself
I can do it for two

Damn, those visuals!

Both Piano In The Sky and The Light are beautifully tragic emotional explosions. The first track has a worrisome tone achieved by minimal use of instrumentals and a strong focus on lyrics. The Light, on the other hand, has a liberating vibe. It deals with overcoming great trauma and preserving the light inside of yourself despite external turmoil and internal chaos.

Check her covers as well, equally awesome

Winona Oak is one of the artists I am very happy I came across this year. Her debut in the music scene is a promising start for something I feel is going to be grand.

Her two EPs this year managed to establish a recognizable aesthetic (both visual and sonic) while demonstrating her unique attitude towards music. The vintage sound mixed with modern influences supports the honest open-hearted lyricism and makes up for a beautiful combination – her music is an interesting, pleasant ride to help you cope with your thoughts for a while, give it shot.

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