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 in 2019. This featured the acclaimed single Immense Tenderness (reviewed here) which dealt powerfully with her experiences of domestic violence.
This latest single, Run, was artistically inspired by the challenges faced by all during the pandemic. IVA has described the song as “an antidote to the dead of winter, and an allegory for the gloom of the pandemic.” However, rather than dwelling on the negatives, Run is about finding the inspirational thing that allows a person to transcend the dark periods that can afflict us all.
The music has an epic quality which reflects the grandeur of the lyrical theme and acts as the perfect showcase for IVA’s remarkable, operatic voice. The opening lines set the scene that many who have been through the pandemic will relate to: “Feel the pour of the dark on your window pane…”. The combination of IVA’s vocals, the haunting vocal melody backing by swelling strings, vintage strings and echo-drenched piano brought to mind the exotic and magical music of artists like Kate Bush and Bjork.
The song builds up to a powerful vocal refrain before returning to the poetic second verse: “The north has a thousand names for snow, it’s a place where you want to go….the trees they seem to know your name, they face the wind in the frozen rain...”. This captures the transcendent feeling in nature that helps so many to cope with life’s burdens, in particular the forced isolation caused by the pandemic lockdowns.
The superb middle section succinctly captures the difficult mindset that can develop through experiencing such an unusual dislocation from what we knew as regular life: “The silence can wait making you feel you’re losing time, or the silence can break make you feel you’re losing your mind….”.
Overall, this is a wonderful new release from IVA that captures her at the height of her artistic powers. Featuring the breathtaking vocal acrobatics for which she has become known, Run is a powerful artistic reflection on the emotional struggles of the global pandemic. Depicting both the dark states of mind encountered by so many and the search for transcendence, Run is ultimately hugely uplifting and inspirational. Being released near the start of 2022 feels right as IVA’s music encapsulates a hopefulness that mankind is now turning a corner after such an ordeal and facing the future with optimism.