Musical duo and couple Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West formed Oh Wonder in 2015https://www.billboard.com/files/styles/article_main_image/public/media/oh-wonder-2020-cr-Olga-De-La-Iglesia-billboard-1548.jpg

In case it wasn’t obvious, Oh Wonder are in love. Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West make their relationship very clear on No One Else Can Wear Your Crown. The sonically varied, carefully curated 10-track album celebrates love in all its forms, focusing on the feelings the duo have for one another. Most striking are the gut-wrenching In and Out of Love and Nebraska, which explore what it means to have found one’s soulmate, and what this means in the context of the Oh Wonder project.

''The name of the record clearly indicates a singular intention: empowerment''

This is the first time the two have openly spoken about their seven-year relationship, which grounds the record in a realism and an honesty that is coveted by every contemporary pop artist, but incredibly difficult to find. The two have always spoken their mind on their records: US politics and global warming took centre stage on their second album, Ultralife, but while the subject matter is less varied on No One Else Can Wear Your Crown, the name of the record clearly indicates a singular intention: empowerment. This ambition is particularly evident in 'Dust', the opening track. The first song they wrote for the album, it sets the tone for the following tracks in classic Oh Wonder style, reminding us that we are ultimately all the same. This fits perfectly with the pattern established by 'Livewire' and 'Solo' from their previous albums, which also seek to expose the human condition by illuminating our most basic similarities.

The album is the shortest the pair has released, allowing for a contained, insular experience of less than half an hour. This limits the extent to which love and shared experience can be explored, but also means that these main themes are kept in focus for the whole record, no song straying from the path. Some could say that the subject matter of these tracks is too personal to invoke a shared experience, but it is a widely accepted notion that the most personal works of art are the most resoundingly relatable. 'Better Now' was written when Vander Gucht heard that a relation was facing complications with the birth of their child. Similarly, 'Hallelujah' is about the doubt her family felt about her pursuing a career in music. The personal intimacy of these songs doesn’t preclude them being interpreted differently by every listener, the record itself is one of the shared experiences they seek to expose.

''Throughout the whole album, Vander Gucht and West never overexert themselves''

There is a marked sonic departure in 'Hallelujah', the first single from No One Else Can Wear Your Crown, from Oh Wonder’s sophomore album Ultralife. Much like this whole album, there is something more contained about 'Hallelujah' than the music we see on Oh Wonder’s 2017 album: the duo no longer shout their lyrics from the rooftops, as soft vocals dominate the track, culminating in the final triumphant chorus, consisting of a rousing drumbeat and almost overwhelming harmonies. Throughout the whole album, Vander Gucht and West never overexert themselves, their contained vocals certainly a characteristic of Oh Wonder’s sound. This might sound negative, but it suggests that the two genuinely know where they are comfortable, and this is where they are most successful. The fact that, from their conception in 2015, they have mainly sung in gentle unison, demonstrates that they don’t see vocals as the most important aspect of their music. They excel at making well-produced, carefully considered music, most notably using strings and background harmonies to create crescendo rather than vocals.


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This is perhaps what makes Oh Wonder different to other pop artists. They don’t seek to create loud, anthemic tracks, and they’re not low-key RnB musicians. Instead, they fit comfortably into the contemporary pop landscape, making everyday anthems that anyone could sing along to. What sets them apart is their song writing and production. No One Else Can Wear Your Crown is Oh Wonder’s best album yet, and although it may be a tad short for fans who had grown used to twelve to fifteen-track records, its thematic and musical cohesion make it feel like a singular project in a way not quite achieved by their first two releases. For the first time, it feels like they set out to make an album, rather than writing a lot of good songs and putting them together. It may be missing an Ultralife-esque banger or two, but No One Else Can Wear Your Crown is their most “Oh Wonder” album yet.

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