Effee becomes a pop star without all the trappings of becoming a pop star
The fact that Carly Rae Jepsen's highly anticipated Dedicated album was being released the same day I was scheduled to interview Fran Litterski was not lost on the songwriter.
For many, Jepsen's brand of pop catnip is exactly the way a pop star should exist in 2019: unmanufactured, humble and craftily able to contort between radio gloss and honest-to-goodness vulnerability. As a poptimist to my core, it's been easy to posit Litterski's alter-ego, Effee, as Columbus' answer to Jepsen. Even if that's not the goal.
“I have never pictured myself as a pop star,” admits Litterski. “I like the idea of being a writer with an artist's career, but I've never imagined myself doing a dance routine onstage. I'm not a great dancer. I might do some ‘sway snaps' at the release show, but that's about the extent of that.”
Despite that admission, and a clarification of ‘sway snaps' (limited choreography that is exactly as it sounds), the parallels to Jepsen, or Lorde, or Lykke Li, for that matter, are hard to ignore on Effee's first big release, the Boring Without You EP.
The single, “High on You,” in particular, is a buoyant summer jam of the highest order, filled with sparkling synths, skittering beats and pleasing outre-bubblegum earworms thrown about to just slightly warp the song's simplicity. It's effervescent without being clueless; an ode to falling in love without the weight of cliche and heavy metaphor that might sink other pop stars. Essentially, it's smart pop with lofty intentions, which can be hard to find in Columbus clubs.
To wit, though the words and music are of her creation, Effee does not go it alone.
Litterski's band consists of husband Kurt Keaner on guitar, drummer Austin Nill and keyboardist Scott Griffin — an agile lineup that can deliver an energetic set at an open-air concert (as evidenced by the response from a welcoming crowd at last year's popular Breakaway Festival) or scale down the vibe to chill in a more intimate club. Boring Without You's lead track, “Move Me,” exemplifies this group dynamic, existing as a hushed lullaby in its verses before the chorus buzzes in with stadium-guitar riffs and rhythmic drama.
“It does make it hard to figure out who to pitch to when I send out my music,” said Litterski, formerly of Kid Runner. “A lot of the pop blogs might say this isn't pop enough, and then the alternative blogs will say it's too pop. That gets a little difficult.”
Regardless of where Effee's music might fall from a subjective point of view — Litterski prefers to focus on her classical piano and jazz roots — her trajectory on this latest EP is undoubtedly pop. And for that, Columbus should celebrate accordingly, even if we just sway snap.