11 Nov 2023

Review: Not Your Cupid by Erny Belle

From The Sampler, 2:30 pm on 11 November 2023

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Erny Belle

Photo: Matt Hurley

Venus is Home, the debut album by Tāmaki Makaurau by-way-of Maungaturoto singer Erny Belle, felt like the announcement of an important local talent. And in the year since, her distinct blend of alt-country and Pacific pop has found its way into more and more ears and onto loftier platforms.

A follow-up has arrived, and it once again name-drops a god of love. But where the first record was conciliatory in its title, this time it announces she’s Not Your Cupid.

Aimee Renata doesn’t just helm one of the country’s funniest Instagram accounts, she’s also the singer-songwriter behind the Erny Belle moniker, mixing classic song structures with a wicked sense of humour, and plenty of flair. 

Not Your Cupid does what great second albums should do, digging deeper into her brand of nihilistic ballads, while expanding she and her band’s sonic palette.

The more you listen, the more you realise that Renata hides a mind bursting with ideas under a deceptively placid surface, and that’s reflected in her singing voice, clear and confident while sounding effortless. 

On ‘Unchained’ her delivery is calm throughout, punctuated by playful backing vocals, and only needing to rise a step in the outro to make a big impact. There’s also a reference to the film Dirty Dancing for good measure.  

I interviewed Renata for Music 101 last year, and it became apparent during our conversation what a huge music fan she is. While we chatted she played me specific songs she liked, and was eager to talk about them.

That shines through on this album, as she keeps the core of her sound but opens up to include new sounds and moods.

‘Pitt Stop’ - a reference to the central Auckland street perhaps - flirts with 50s doo-wop over a ridiculously catchy keyboard riff.

Another single, ‘Stay Golden’, vibes on a sinister guitar progression and crunchy layers of percussion, before some far more generous, and distinctly Pacific-sounding chords sweep the song into sexier territory.

The washes of synth on that track feel like a new addition to the Erny Belle sound, and elsewhere there’s sitar, pastoral folk guitar, and heart-rending strings and piano. 

All these accoutrements are there to serve each song, and Renata shows she can’t just write and sing beautifully, but understands the power of a great arrangement. 

‘C’est La Vie’ might seem to be here just to prove she can make something French-sounding, but you’re soon taken by the way she somehow makes the line “I know how to tango” feel emotional, and how impactful some well-chosen piano notes can be. 

She has a background in film that’s evident in the style and scope of the Erny Belle brand, but Not Your Cupid proves conclusively that comes second to her immaculate songcraft.

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to The Sampler

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)