IVA is the artistic moniker of Emily Tepe, born in Wilmington, Delaware. Raised in a very musical family, she began training as an opera singer at OperaDelaware from the age of nine. She went on to train as a Classical Soprano at the Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music then graduated from Princeton’s world-class performance program. Her break came from appearing on the Late Night with Conan O’ Brien show which turned her from an opera singer to an international pop star. Since then she has released several hit albums including Ivolution in 2009, Leap in 2015 and, more recently, the EP Traitor.
This song, Immense Tenderness, is taken from Traitor. Unfortunately, IVA experienced a relationship where she was the victim of domestic violence and that is sadly what Immense Tenderness is about. It’s a delicate and highly poignant acoustic ballad that allows the beauty of IVA’s voice to shine. With her crystalline vocals right to the fore of the mix, she gives a hugely intimate and emotive performance that displays enormous emotional courage and vulnerability.
The languid, melancholy tempo sets the tone before IVA enters, her voice immediately captivating. The lyrics depict a tragic relationship that had started out so happily before her lover’s personality changed for the worse: “I once knew immense tenderness, then the price took over the rights took over and I had to second guess why I met you…”.
The “heart on the sleeve” style of song brought to mind the troubled love songs of Joni Mitchell’s Blue era and Immense Tenderness has a similarly deep and profound emotional resonance. Somewhat of an epic at nearly six minutes, it certainly doesn’t feel that long as IVA’s haunting voice and heartbroken words keep you captivated till the end.
Overall, this is a magnificent, melancholy ballad by a singer of unique quality. Though she was trained in opera, IVA understands the power of understatement and her depiction of a tragic descent into domestic violence is deeply affecting and poignant whilst still restrained. Her ascendancy will only continue with time.