The paracosm of bedroom pop is an ‘80s high school prom and the slew of characters that exist within. While Sky Ferreira hijacks the mic during king and queen announcements to publicly sing “Everything is Embarrassing” to her crush, Shura is propped arms akimbo against a wall in the back. She’s Shura with the dip-dyed hair and glowstick glam, but she’s also Aleksandra Denton behind the curtains—soft and complete with the witticisms of a mumblecore sidekick. Shura is an appendage to the pre-established archetypes of our imagined prom—as the hero of the sidelines, the one who spikes the punch and doesn’t take any credit for it. She gets the insecurities and hysteria of the alt-girl genre, but doesn’t walk off the dance floor doused in pig’s blood. At least, not yet.
For someone who’s not doing anything new, the west London up-and-comer does it exceptionally well. Shura is one of many artists still writing Madonna’s obituary, with a sound that harkens back to the True Blue era’s “Open Your Heart” and “Where’s The Party.” Her debut album Nothing’s Real recalls the electronic highlights of “Touch,” the single that catapulted her into Soundcloud fame two years go and has been remixed several times over since. In fact, the song garnered such a following that she was constantly bothered by inquiries of when her first album would be released. She created a website called Has Shura Finished Her Album Yet in response to these questions—a way of gently poking fun at her growing fanbase.
Shura’s professional namesake is actually not a manga character, but the nickname that she was referred to as a kid. It makes perfects sense, considering how deep-seated Nothing’s Real is in the artist’s memories of her formative arc. The EP starts off with the recordings of a family outing in “(i)”, in which her father calls out, “Where is Shura?” before exclaiming, “There she is!” This inaugural flourish jumps into a record that is littered with relics of her youth, including screams from her toddler self and a chat with her Russian mother that spirals and slinks to its consummate end.
In “Tongue-Tied,” Shura knows just what to say, but can’t bring herself to do it. Her aphasia returns in “2Shy” when she sings, “We could be more than friends / Baby I’m just too shy to say it.” She doesn’t make eyes at us, but it’s not out of the cool vacancy that most of her counterparts exude. As the synth rattles, Shura feels just as freaked out as anyone else and starts asking the fundamental questions. Why does anything happen? Is anything real? In this coming-of-age album, she seeks the apothecary who can pour one out for her growing pains, whether that’s in love, family, or her own history.