The pop-R&B singer’s long-awaited debut follows a line from crippling self-doubt to pure confidence, adopting a glossy and funky vibe fortified by her exceptional voice and songwriting.
Over the past six years, Amber Mark has crafted consistent pop-R&B music with tasteful, glossy precision. The New York artist’s first two EPs, 2017’s 3:33 AM and 2018’s breakthrough Conexão, examined themes of grief and love through lithe R&B, pop, dance, and bossa nova, melding different sounds into one elegant, rhythmic blend. She separated herself from her peers by leaning into stormy, overwhelming emotion, whether swimming through a monsoon of tears on an undulating ballad or demanding equal footing in a relationship over a jubilant house beat.
Mark’s impressive, husky voice suits her genre-hopping music, which hit a stride in 2020 on her quarantine-made covers series that allowed her to stretch her legs and experiment, especially in its more offbeat, cheeky exercises (see: her house-infused, unexpectedly delightful spin on Sisqó’s “Thong Song”). That set serves as a playful aperitif for Three Dimensions Deep, Mark’s polished, long-awaited debut. Moving smoothly between R&B, funk, and pop, the fully realized album foregrounds Mark’s vocals and songwriting, scrutinizing her self-doubt as a way to cast it out and build self-confidence.
The album is structured in three acts mapping Mark’s journey at different stages: identifying her own insecurities, working through the messy parts of self-discovery, and finally reaching a solid sense of self-worth. Three Dimensions Deep’s secondary, figurative throughline is inspired by Mark’s love of sci-fi and interest in heady astrophysics theories, a theme that pops up through celestial metaphors in her lyrics that amplify human concerns to galactic size. In Mark’s world, romance hurtles her to another planet, kisses are astronomical, and searching for her place in the world is posed as an all-consuming, cosmic question.
Mark makes the concept work, using it as a loose framework for plush, tightly produced songs whose subjects range from tossing men in the trash to battling dark nights of the soul. “Trying to see where life leads, where the future lies/Anxiety all of me keeping me up at night,” she admits on “One” over a chopped-up blues sample and knocking beats. The concession feels honest, with Mark taking stock of the uncertainty of her future and emerging freshly determined to take control of it. “On & On” describes another battle with self-doubt over a stomping drumbeat and sumptuous strings, making the mental slump of questioning one’s worth sound refreshingly comforting. She uses the occasional astral image, like looking up into the night sky, to illuminate small junctures of uncertainty and distance.
Mark tempers the album’s vulnerable moments with upbeat songs that traipse through sultry nights out and scenes from her love life. Early highlight “Most Men” unspools slowly, as organ chords give way to a laidback beat at the halfway point and Mark immortalizes the one true commandment when it comes to dating: “Most men are garbage.” Later, she moves on from terrible exes on the seductive “Softly,” which loops the guitar melody from Craig David’s 2000 song “Rendezvous” into a throbbing R&B backdrop for the heated tension she feels with a potential partner. Mark co-produced or engineered over half of the album’s 17 tracks and makes her fingerprints known, shifting easily from velvety, percussive R&B (“Worth It”) to sleek pop-funk (“Darkside”). Small details—a slight key change, stacked murmured vocals, luxuriant extended outros—work like choice accessories on Mark’s signature, memorable style.
As on her previous EPs, Mark’s dynamic voice imbues the album with its most emotive, surprising turns. On the sauntering “What It Is,” she stretches her vowels over cascading, layered vocals and a scorching guitar solo. Later she adopts a conversational flow to indulge in a glitzy lifestyle on “Foreign Things,” and strikes a smoky, melancholy tone during “On & On.” The depth and dexterity make for one of the album’s most engaging qualities; even when Mark reaches for an obvious lyric, as on the arguably outdated chorus of “FOMO” or the neutral-to-a-fault “Competition,” her rich, varied performance transforms the occasional errant choice into an opportunity for another compelling vocal phrasing.
Energetic, lush, and measured, Three Dimensions Deep is a cohesive debut from Mark that doesn’t lose sight of the bespoke sound that she’s developed over the years. Here, Mark’s music accomplishes its goal of making the pursuit of figuring out who you are, what you stand for, and how you can make it through the world feel as immense as a meteor cratering into the moon. But that kind of outsize passion feels exceptionally true to life, especially as rendered in Mark’s capable hands.