Isabella Lovestory – Pop Princess, Thrift God

Approaching the balcony of Projet Casa, I couldn’t help thinking that Isabella Lovestory had stumbled onto the wrong stage. Let me set the scene: a bourgeoisie house in the Plateau, repurposed into a contemporary art gallery called Projet Casa. The balcony of Projet Casa is old fashioned, featuring a charmingly dilapidated wrought iron balustrade. It looks over Projet Casa’s small parking lot. A huddle of mortals gathers, gazing up at the sexy, hot pink MTV goddess, almost glowing against the grayness of her stage.

At the start of the set, much of the audience was awkwardly standing apart from each other (perhaps observing social distancing), but Isabella Lovestory was having none of it: “come closer,” she urged us, arms outstretched. I imagine that everyone in the audience felt at that moment that she was speaking directly to them. The crowd edged forward, and soon learned that life is better closer to Lovestory’s glow.

She launched into “Sexo Amor Dinero,” and I learned quickly that it’s impossible to not dance to her music. (I say “dance” ­– for me this is awkward swaying, but the point is that the urge to move one’s body is irrepressible in earshot of Lovestory’s music.)

Her music is neon, kinetic and absolutely overstimulating. She fuses the sounds of Y2K pop, reggaetón, Y2K R&B, hip-hop, K-Pop, and hyperpop completely effortlessly. The way she combines so many genres feels very… internet-y to me. I think gen-z kids all generally understand how being terminally online teaches you how to be a sponge. But Lovestory is a very special sponge. The brilliance of her music is not that she can mimic of all these styles; it is that she is intelligent enough to absorb them, synthesize them, and make them completely her own.

She made voracious use of the space around her, strutting back and forth across the stage in her kitten heels (clickclickclickclick). The balcony became her prop: she cleverly used the balcony railing for sexy hijinks and imagery – going on all fours and peering through the railings, like she was behind bars, then using the taller posts in the railing as an impromptu stripper pole. When she bent over the edge of the balustrade, she said “this is so Romeo and Juliet.” The genius of her use of the space really speaks to the multimedia ingenuity of the masterpiece that is Isabella Lovestory. 

There’s a German term called “Gesamtkunstwerk,” which basically denotes a work of art with different creative processes come together to create one work of art and I can’t for the life of me get it out of my head as I’m thinking about Isabella Lovestory’s performance; of  her persona. She’s not just musically talented, she’s a true performer, a dancer, a fashion freak. Her outfit alone was a work of art: dazzling multi-colored neon leggings, a skintight pink and black striped minidress, a low-slung Y2K style black belt, little black ankle warmers slung over Miu Miu kitten heels (duh), and a little pom-pom headband (which at some point she threw to a member of the audience who was later revealed to be her little brother).

It is important to me that you know that Isabella Lovestory is fucking hilarious. After performing her *iconic* hit from 2020, “Kitten Heels,” she stuck a foot between the balcony railings, wiggled it around and said of her eponymous kitten heels “they’re Miu Miu and I got them on ebay for 12 dollars.” (Miu Miu kitten heels are generally around $1300 CAD new and $150 CAD used). Then she turned around sharply, whipping her hair, and launched into the next song.

During the last song, the cops showed up, sirens blaring. Lovestory took this in her stride: “It’s part of the song!” she announced, without missing a beat. Then she strutted to the end of the balcony, folded at the hips and twerked audaciously in the direction of the police.

The thought I had at the start of the show was clearly woefully misguided: there is no “wrong stage” for Isabella Lovestory. She belongs everywhere. I welcome her reign.

This performance at Projet Casa was part of POP Montreal. Her new album, "Amor Hardcore" was released Wednesday October 5, 2022, and is available to stream on Spotify, and YouTube Music.