Recommended Tracks: “Like All My Friends”, “Two Spaces in Between”, “Small Talk”
Artists You May Like: Sam Smith, Lauv, Sam Fischer
No matter how many times artists like Sam Smith or Adele have warned us, there is no true way to prepare for heartbreak. It comes in many forms, at times when we least expect it, and does not care whether it has happened before. Global pop artist and internet sensation Francis Karel is familiar with the poignant nature of love and heartache, as we hear on his debut EP, Handle with Care. Containing coming-of-age anthems and intimate expressions of desire, Handle with Care is Francis’s reminder to protect the heart in all attempts to make it feel complete.
The first half of the EP contains vulnerable stories and observations about the pursuit of love. Francis reveals on the title track, “It’s hard to find someone to open up to / When your walls were built so tall that no one’s brave enough to break through,” wanting so much to get close to someone. He knows that he is “not beyond repair,” however, and asks, “If we go there, handle me with care.” Francis then addresses his FOMO on the tender piano ballad “Like All My Friends.” Using charming melodies and layers of vocals, he admits, “I wanna fall in love like all my friends / God, they look so happy” and “I don’t mind my empty bed / But sometimes I get lonely,” wishing his situation was different. The lonely vibes continue on “Dancing on Your Own,” where Francis watches as his friends dance the night away with people they love. The minimal production emphasizes his tormented feelings as he gives lines like “As the lights go down / I know what happens now / This is the part where I’m left out,” making us want to accompany him to the dance floor.
The second half of Handle with Care gives us a little more backstory on Francis’s dating life, starting with “Two Spaces in Between.” This rhythmic track attempts to brush off the power that “I love you” tends to have, its prominent downbeats and playful percussion giving it a casual façade. However, Francis advises that he assigns meaning to that phrase, singing, “Don’t say that you love me / ‘Cause I’m afraid that I’ll need it / You said it so carelessly / But it’s more than three little words to me / With two spaces in between.” It is clear by this point that Francis takes love seriously, which makes the breakups especially devastating. On “Small Talk,” he fantasizes about the good times he had, wanting to get them back. He sings over dramatic strings and sweeping piano, “Now all we have is small talk / I wonder where we got lost / Somewhere along the way, you changed the rules you were playing,” but concludes it’s not all bad with, “I’d rather have small talk than nothing at all.” With “Holding On,” Francis sings about losing his first love, bringing the EP to an epic close. Containing breezy riffs and moving beats, the track contains more of a pop rock vibe, giving the track extra edge. Wistfully, Francis observes, “I wish I got to choose a different way on how this gets to go / ‘Cause I’m tired of hoping something’s gonna change beyond this afterglow,” tapping into the frustration of losing something and someone so special.
Overall, Handle with Care is an eloquent expression of breakups and heartache. These are difficult topics to navigate, but Francis is able to convey them with such conviction and clarity. His lush and compelling vocals, along with the dramatic soundscapes of piano and strings, create riveting moments that are sure to touch any hopeless romantic or anyone going through their first heartbreak. With this EP, Francis normalizes the idea of being handled with care, as nobody deserves to feel broken.
You can listen to Handle with Care on platforms like SoundCloud, Spotify, and Apple Music.