Celeste Weighs Love and Identity in New Album: 'Not Your Muse'

By Nick Lee

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“I touch your head to pull your thoughts into my hand...but now I can’t”

If you were to listen to a song by British singer-songwriter, Celeste, you’d likely think you were listening to lyrics written by an individual reflecting on the entirety of a long-lived life. However, while her fresh perspective on love and life is wrought with wisdom, she herself is only 26-years-old. Celeste’s most-recent project Not Your Muse shows an artist with jazzy cadence kin to Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald. while maintaining a fresh perspective of her own.


Celeste kicks off Not Your Muse with a mellow, guitar-backed track entitled Ideal Woman. It’s a simple piece that serves as both an introduction and a declaration to herself and her listeners. The piece’s minimalistic instrumentation and mild tone allow her sultry vocals to shine as she sweetly croons about the expectations placed upon her as a woman/companion. On it, Celeste ponders about why some might be uncomfortable with her; she wonders if it's because she’s “too proud” or “too loud” or “so tall”. However, this is merely a passing thought as she makes her position on the matter ring clear: she is content in being neither “the heaven in your head” nor “the one that’s gonna save you from all your discontent”—an obligation commonly placed on the heads of women in so many relationship dynamics. It's the perfect opener to an album by an artist who is all about independence, individuality, and self-appreciation—and it's perfectly accented by Celeste’s commentary on the joys of vulnerability when falling in love in Beloved.


Beloved tells a warm, age-old story of falling in love and embracing vulnerability in giving in to another. In an arrangement reminiscent of a 50’s-style love song, Celeste sings, from the perspective of a secret admirer, about hopelessly falling for the “man of my dreams” who is her “dear beloved”. It’s a nostalgic and beautiful appreciation of unrequited love, without the complications of modern-day social dynamics, and is perfectly on-brand for Celeste’s tendency to embrace raw emotion in her music. She again proves her capability as an individual to tow the line between giving one’s heart away and maintain a firm sense of self. 

Not Your Muse also shows a healthy appreciation for love lost with the haunting ballad, Strange, in which Celeste speaks on the loss of oneself through losing a connection with another. In a slow lamentation, backed by a soft piano and string arrangement, Celeste wonders how strange it is “how people can change from strangers to friends, friends into lovers, and strangers again”. As she hears “the silence steal over to my bedside” and feels the “violent disclosure turn my insides”, she comes to terms with losing a connection with her other half. It's one of a few times the album acknowledges how one’s sense of self can be tested when one opens their heart to another, only for time to change them both.


The project in its entirety purposefully tests the integrity of love and relationship structure and—true to real life—never decides whether it is a blessing or simply a thin line between a person and their loss of self. What it does decide, is that both love and freedom-of-self are two states of being that deserve to be celebrated. Celeste album perfectly captures the desires of the human soul in a manner uncommon in mainstream music releases. In an expertly curated meditation on the human condition, Celeste brings vulnerability back to mainstream music. Not Your Muse is a must-listen for all. 


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