The last few songs I’ve heard from Kelsie Kimberlin were soft, wistful, and personal. “Vlad” is not that. Drawing on her experience as a Ukrainian-American living in, well, now, Kimberlin abandons her penchant for soft vocal delivery and harmonic complexity on “Vlad” altogether, fusing hip hop and punk rock in an aggressive, ear-catching protest song against the notorious, eponymous Russian president and his war in Ukraine.
The song opens with an ominous combination of synthesizer and guitar – which immediately caught my attention, particularly as this sonic choice contrasts dramatically with what I’d come to expect from Kimberlin. Shortly thereafter, the drums and vocals enter and, lo and behold, she’s rapping – with considerable energy and conviction, no less!
Instrumentally the song is fairly straightforward, alternating between a hip-hop-esque verse section (albeit using acoustic drums and sounds) and a very straight-ahead punk chorus. It’s fun, and more importantly, it gets the point across. Especially with Kimberlin’s vocals, with lyrics that enumerate the atrocities of the war and sum it up with the chorus, “Bad, bad.”
The production on “Vlad” is rougher than some of Kimberlin’s other songs, but that's likely an intentional choice given that it’s basically a rap-punk song. It would feel weird obviously to have it be produced as some of her other material.
The song also comes coupled with a music video featuring footage from a trip Kimberlin took to Ukraine towards the end of 2023. She shows bombed-out buildings, destroyed tanks, and other carnage wrought by the Russian president’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s an appropriate visual accompaniment to such a song, for sure, and solidifies Kimberlin’s point that this is without question a protest song.
With such dynamics in style, I’m really curious to see where Kimberlin goes next musically. She’s done soft, she’s gone hard, what’s coming up? Will she continue to fly the Ukrainian flag high and proud? I can’t wait to see, and I’m sure her fans can’t either!
Listen to "Vlad" on Spotify here -
You can check out Kelsie Kimberlin’s website here -
A brilliant addition to the repertoire -