Tracing WASHA’s story through the marks he’s made on the internet, you can see that much has changed for the artist. Since his first appearances as WASHA, Dwight Pendleton has relocated from Ft. Lauderdale to Brooklyn, released a two-part EP in 2014 and 2015, The Bright, Parts II and I, and strayed from his Sufjan Stevens influences pretty significantly. On his new song, “Let U Down,” Pendleton settles even further into the role of producer on an electronic-pop track, a position that he began to move towards on his last albums.
Awash in woozy synths and a deep, echoing beat loop, Pendleton’s processed voice could be just as at home in the ‘80s as it is in today’s synth-pop landscape. Maybe it’s the echo effect on the chorus, the use of “U” in the title, or the lens of current events, but “Let U Down” calls to mind Prince in his heyday. In those moments, the qualifiers that he has historically chosen—“baroque,” “experimental,” etc.—melt away, leaving a song that is pop first and foremost.
Underneath that pop tone and electronic producer guise, though, WASHA maintains a warmth and heavy sadness that recalls earlier influences. After all, the most repeated phrase on “Let U Down” is “When I’m all alone,” and its refrain is an anguished leap in the melody with accompanying lyrics, “I just get so stressed out / Will you love me this way?” Rather than erase himself, as a producer does, Pendleton puts his feelings on display. At the end, he moves further in that direction, switching vocal effects to close with a soulful melody. Even within the course of a four-minute song, WASHA keeps on growing and changing.