There’s a lot of firsts for Bully’s third album SUGAREGG. It’s the first Bully album to be reimagined as the solo project of Alicia Bognanno. And it’s also the first Bully record that Bognanno herself has not engineered. Without that added pressure, she has said that she found a new creative independence on SUGAREGG, free “from the weight of feeling like I had to prove to the world I was capable of engineering a record...without needing the approval of others to validate that.”
Moreover, Bognanno is now openly writing and speaking about her struggles with bipolar II disorder - yet another first. For Bognanno, her songwriting has always shown her at her most open. “I pretty much came out as being bisexual through Bully,” she said. And it’s not just that Boganno is now speaking out about having bipolar II - it’s that she has also found the proper treatment and care for the disorder. It’s completely altered her mindset, allowing her to break out of a cycle she was once stuck in. “Being able to finally navigate that opened the door for me to write about it,” she said.
Bully is cathartic for Bognanno as much as it is for the listener, and SUGAREGG is no different. The newfound creativity, the independence, the openness - it’s all there. Looking back on Bully’s previous release, Losing, the growth certainly can be heard, although I’m hesitant to attribute this to the engineering. These differences - Losing has upfront vocals whereas SUGAREGG strikes a fine balance - seem subjective. The growth comes in the looseness. Bully is as tattered and grungy as ever, but there’s a brightening energy now in SUGAREGG, a self-awareness and happiness to let it all hang out.
“Every Tradition” is one of my favorites from SUGAREGG; it's a song full of defiance and self-assuredness. “It's like pressure to have a baby/ When I don't want one in my body/ You say my mind is gonna change one day,” sings Bognanno. This track, along with “Not Ashamed,” is meant to explore what society expects or assumes of a woman and as Bognanno said, “what it feels like to naturally challenge those expectations.”
There’s also “Where to Start,” a free falling Chumbawamba-inspired track and the lead single from the album, soaked in exasperation. Songs “Prism” and "Come Down" show Bully going softer and melodic, while keeping the grungy guitar lines ever present; there’s a moment on "Let You" too, where she goes from a near whisper-talk-sing moment to letting throaty yells loose from her lungs.
“Like Fire” is another favorite of mine; there’s a back-and-forth back between a trippy, discordant melody and Bully's yells. And it’s full of yearning. "It kind of haunts me we don't talk anymore,” sings Bognanno.
I’ll leave you with this one last quote from Bognanno: “I hope the happy-go-lucky, fuck-it-all attitude shines through some of these songs, because I really did feel like I was re-entering a place I hadn’t been to in a while and was excited to be back there.”
Listen to SUGAREGG below.