By Angelina Singer, Rock At Night Boston
Review: Cali Rodi’s EP – The Romcom Tapes – November 17, 2023
After being discovered by Keith Urban and joining forces with the same vocal producer who worked with Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus, Cali Rodi is enjoying great success in her music career — and for good reason. Not only is her songwriting and sonic vision equal parts clever and fun, but her talent has a timeless quality that brings listeners effortlessly back to the golden age of 2000s pop punk music.
With her debut EP, The Romcom Tapes, Cali Rodi is challenging the way listeners view classic romcoms (à la Sixteen Candles, How to Lose a Girl in 10 Days, etcetera). She even presented each of the 4 songs of this EP with accompanying duped movie posters to help her fans visualize the concept she was going for with each piece of this nostalgic puzzle.
Her style could be described as power pop with an angsty punk edge — aka, pretty much my favorite kind of music ever. Not only are romcoms my personal vice, but I also love the bite-sized idealistic insta-romance that happens in these types of movies, similar to what the Hallmark Channel is known for.
The EP opens with “Crazy, Stupid, Love” a relatively short and sweet but lovely introduction to a handful of sonic stories that you won’t want to miss. References to Breakfast at Tiffany’s settles the listener into this fantastical yet sarcastic John Hughes-inspired world. Slow, swelling orchestral chords set the scene as she proclaims “all I really want is a kiss in the rain” — which is what most of us want, let’s be honest. It ends somewhat abruptly, and while I would’ve loved to have seen her explore this idea more, it serves its purpose in the EP effectively.
Track 2 is “Never Been Kissed” and it’s something that Taylor Swift could’ve easily written with its iconic call-and-response style. Something about Rodi’s melodic patterns are similar to Swift’s, and her lyrics are plenty pithy enough to back it up without being cheesy. “Fog up the windows in your car / you draw our names into a heart and let me see a birthmark” are both catchy and thematically clear, all leading up to the titular moment — “holy shit, it’s like I’ve never been kissed”. Love the dynamics in this one — the verses are more bare, with just keyboard effects, while the full band joins forces for the power-pop choruses that you’ll want to dance to.
“Sixteen Candles” is easily my favorite of the EP. The lyrics and rhythms here are so satisfying, layered up against the subtle guitar articulations. It’s also so relatable and fun — everyone idealizes being sixteen, until they remember how heartbreaking this age can be. Lyrics like “Wasting my youth in the afterglow / I left my innocence at your house / I still feel the heartbreak even now” suggest a deeper meaning to an overall very pop-oriented, energetic tune. I always appreciate when artists play into this delightful dichotomy between a fun sonic style and darker lyrics. This one is heartbreaking but so incredibly good.
Concluding this EP of romcom stories that tug at your heartstrings, is her song “How to Lose a Girl”. This one has more of a trap feel, with a chilled-out instrumentation, but scathing vocals.
It’s aggressive, but amusing. The message is a sort of instructional guide with the tongue-and-cheek undertone of what not to do in a relationship. Dynamics shine here, as verse two introduces more instrumentation. I cringed at a lyric in that verse (I won’t type it here, when you listen, I bet you’ll be able to guess) — but I’d call that a win. The world doesn’t need any more vapid, brainless pop music. Instead, Cali Rodi has infused real meaning and emotion into even the cheesy romcom structure. “What were you expecting? A romcom happy ending? Don’t think I ever met someone that oblivious” are hilarious lyrics that threaten to break the fourth wall.
Upon seeing the EP title, it’s fair that the listener might expect a collection of feel-good love songs — but that couldn’t be further than reality. You’ll feel good listening to this EP, yes — but there’s so much more lurking below the surface, and I hope you’ll take the time to rewind every delectable scene of Cali Rodi’s The Romcom Tapes.