Pop’s quickly-rising middle class is full of glitchy, sparkling weirdos who aren’t afraid to go all the way left field, and after a long hiatus, LIZ is looking to join those ranks. The Los Angeles-based singer, Elizabeth Abrams, who sometimes goes by the moniker LIZ Y2K has instead taken the infamous 2000s acronym and welded it into the title of her latest project, Planet Y2K. Though she hasn’t released a full-length project since the Cross Your Heart mixtape in 2016, she’s still been busy collaborating with artists like Slayyyter — who seems like an obvious acolyte — and releasing a steady stream of one-off singles all last year.
Like her forebearer Charli XCX, who LIZ opened for back in 2013 during the True Romance tour, LIZ isn’t a radio pop artist, and probably won’t be hitting the mainstream airwaves for a while yet. Instead, she thrives in the internet ecosystem, even dubbing 2016’s project a “fashion editorial” that wasn’t just a musical release, but also included a photoshoot collaboration with Nicola Formichetti’s fashion and lifestyle brand Nicopanda. Using social media and the emerging future-nostalgia aesthetic of mixing old, pixelated internet imagery with the dystopian, LIZ’s style is just as much a part of her persona as her music is.
Speaking of, Planet Y2K is the strongest project LIZ has released to date, splitting the difference between ‘90s-leaning jams like the previously-released single “BTR 2TGTHR” (co-written with Kim Petras) and the clubbier, bubblegum beat of “Hearts Don’t Break.” Her collab with Slayyyter, “Diamond In The Dark,” is one of only a few features on the lengthy sixteen-track album, which also includes appearances by other emerging pop artists like Aja and Namasenda, and Ravenna Golden. Another standout is her song with Aja, “Lottery,” which sounds like Britney Spears gone full hedonist and includes the line “My heart is a black card / Gonna need a bodyguard / To protect your bank roll.”
Another throwback is the Spice Girls-influenced “Intuition” which has the moody synths, ‘90s beats, and heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics that made that group one of the biggest in the world a couple decades ago. LIZ does nostalgia well, but the real victory is how she mixes it with forward-thinking production and a tongue-in-cheek twist, a bit of irony that makes her aesthetic and sound decidedly post-modern. “Bubblegum” nails all those elements, using hyperspeed, chipmunk-sounding vocal effects, and rubbery production to back the campy, over-the-top lyrics — none of which stops it from getting firmly stuck in your head after a few listens.
Previously signed to Mad Decent and touted as the label’s signature pop act, LIZ has shifted gears and is releasing Planet Y2K on the label Moving Castle, a collective created by AObeats, Manila Killa, and Robokid, who are her frequent collaborators and producers as well. Furthermore, LIZ cites her independence as the driving force behind this project, and notes that she both A&R’d and executive produced the record. “One of the biggest reasons why Planet Y2K is so special to me is because it’s a culmination of a lot of work I did independently,” she said in a press release. “I A&R’d and executive produced the project sonically and visually, and as someone who’s been through the insecurity-infused ringer of the music industry for basically half of my life, I’m really proud of my perseverance and confidence in my taste.”
As more nightmare stories emerge about what women experience while trying to make a living in this industry, it’s refreshing to see an artist like LIZ who has been through different phases and labels show this kind of resilience, and find her place within the ranks of pop outsiders who don’t need radio to build a fanbase — or a signature sound. As streaming begins to remake the rules about who and what can succeed, LIZ is an artist poised to become one of the driving forces for pop in the next couple of years. And her frequent dips into the nostalgia of ’90s and ’00s are all part of that.
Considering this was the year NSYNC reunited at the biggest festival in the country to serve as Ariana Grande’s backing band, and even bands like Sublime are undergoing a critical reconsideration due to the influence of Lana Del Rey, Liz’s own 2015 Spice Girls cover points to her anticipation of these trends. By mixing the old with the new, LIZ has defined herself as an artist that will bridge the gap between pop generations, and Planet Y2K is a succinct reflection of an artist who knows how to make the best of both worlds.
Planet YK2 is out now via Moving Castle. Get it here.