Category: R&B

chilombo by jhene Aiko

Album: Chilombo 

Artist: Jhené Aiko 

Genre: R&B 

Record labels: Def Jam Recordings, Epic Records, The Island Def Jam Music Group, The 

Ultimate Group 

Recommend Tracks: Track 11- Tryna smoke, Track 11- Lightning and thunder 

Jhené Aiko is an American singer and songwriter, who made her debut by making appearances in B2K. Her album is titled Chilombo after her last name. Jhené Aiko is known to deliver smooth melodies and quotable lyrics. This album does not disappoint. I give this album a 5/5 because lyrically and vocally pleasant. The tracks I recommend “Tryna Smoke” and “Lightning and Thunder” show the full scope of the album. From one spectrum it’s the relaxation you get from using marijuana, and the calmness from a storm. The lyrics from “Lighting and Thunder”, “ Burning incense just to wish you well” shows Jhené’s positive spirit. I like all the songs on this album and I recommend everyone give it a listen. 

changes by justin bieber

Album: Changes

Artist: Justin Bieber  

Record Labels: Def Jam Records, Island Records, RBMG Records, The Island Def Jam Music Group and School Boy Records 

Recommended Tracks: 4- “Intentions ft. Quavo”, 5-“Yummy”

Justin Drew Bieber was born on March 1, 1994. He is a Canadian singer, songwriter and actor. Bieber was discovered at 13 years old by talent manager Scooter Braun after he had watched his YouTube cover song videos. He was signed to RBMG Records in 2008. Bieber’s debut EP My World, released in late 2009. He became the first artist to have seven songs from a debut record chart on the Billboard Hot 100. Many people recognize Bieber by his hit song Baby ft Usher. At a very young age, he drew in large crowds from all around the world. Even today, Bieber’s life is streaming across the internet and all across magazines. I am going to give this album a three out of five rating. I will explain in the last paragh why. 

Intentions ft. Quavo is about Beiber talking about his significant other. He says that they are “picture perfect, you don’t need no filter. Gorgeous, make them drop dead, you are a killer. Shower you with all my attention. Yeah these are my only intentions”. This song is actually really cute. The lines above, he says multiple times throughout the song. Beiber shows his love, affection and appreciation to his significant other in this song. He also uses the lines “shout out to your mom and dad for makin’ you. Standin’ ovation, they did a great job raising you”. This song has a really mellow beat that one can vide with. Even when Quavo’s part comes in, he keeps it mellow like Bieber has. This song was executed nicely. 

Yummy is a song that is already well-known throughout the music company. It is one of the most played songs on the radio already. This song is also one of the most used songs on a very known app called Tik Tok. Yummy has a similar beat to Intentions ft. Quavo. It is very calm and mellow. Unlike Intentions ft. Quavo, Yummy is a song that I can see being played in a club. It definitely throws out club vibes. This song is also pretty basic with its use of lyrics. I learned the whole song by only hearing it twice. And I don’t really know the meaning of the song, it may just be me, but I missed it. 

The reason I gave this album a three out of five stars is because all of the songs have a similar beat to it. Not one song sounds out from the rest. In some people’s eyes, that might be a good thing because the album follows very well. But, if you are a person who likes a variety of music in one album (like me) then this album isn’t for you. Overall, the songs are good. If you are a Bieber fan or if you like mellow songs, this album is for you.

fuck the world by brent faiyaz

Album: Fuck The World

Artist: Brent Faiyaz

Genre: R&B

Record Labels: Lost KiDs

Recommended Tracks: Track 4 – Fuck The World (Summer in London) and Track 5- Let Me Know

Christopher Brent Woods, better known as Brent Faiyaz, is a 24 year old musician from the DMV who has piloted his fair share of suave buttery choruses. If you don’t recognize the name, you’ve likely heard his vocal stylings on the GoldLink song “Crew” which utilized Faiyaz on sticky hook that exudes braggadocio and confidence. The DMV players anthem hit 45 on the Billboard Hot 100, which is still GoldLink’s peak chart performance (as well as Faiyaz’s). Faiyaz has lent his guest vocals to choruses on quite a few rap tracks, much in the tradition of the up and coming R&B artist trying to draw on two genres shared audience. Namely, he was featured on a few of his late labelmate Juice WRLD’s songs across his first two projects. Fuck The World is Faiyaz’s second commercial album, his first being the heartfelt yet uncatchy and ultimately forgetable Sonder Son. On this album Faiyaz trends away from all-encompassing autobiography across various time periods of his life for a more simplistic examination of his current lifestyle of unsatisfactory excess, coping through drug use, and being what he calls an “empathic narcissist”. I would give this album a 2/5, as while think the narratives and themes that Faiyaz engages with are interesting and well developed within individual songs despite the album’s briefness, Faiyaz’s musical stylings just aren’t that engaging to me, and his commonplace subject matter and sound make him blend into the background of the multiplicity of similar R&B acts

My first standout track from this project is the (sort of) title track “Fuck The World (Summer in London)”. This track is an essential summation of many of the albums essential themes. Faiyaz says in the tracks first lines after an ever so original lighter clicks over faint sample intro, “(I wanna) fuck the world I’m a walking erection, spend without a thought we do it reckless”. Essentially, Faiyaz is quite promiscuous and is possessed by his gargantuan sexual appetite, therefore he is a walking erection. Secondly, he spends lavishly and without thought. These are both revealed throughout the album, Faiyaz’s discography, and some of the promotional/explicatory material around Faiyaz’s discography as coping mechanisms for the fundamental mistrust Faiyaz feels for those around him, Faiyaz’s aforementioned personality “flaws”, and Faiyaz’s struggle with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts. This is a narrative essential to modern rap, and yet I don’t think Faiyaz’s contributions are unwelcome. For one, Faiyaz makes it clear that his music is based on lived experiences and personal truths. He’s not parroting platitudes, he’s documenting his own genuine experience with these issues which are common rap fodder. However, while Faiyaz’s lyrical take is individual, compelling, and personal, his musical decisions might as well be algorithmic. Faiyaz has been penalized before in critical writing for lack of experimentation, and I don’t think that’s more apparent anywhere than this album. Faiyaz sounds like he’s trying to expand his personal lease on his niche of R&B, and he describes himself as genreless, however he doesn’t dare venture into any unfamiliar or even interesting instrumentation.

My second standout track directly follows my last on the tracklist. “Let Me Know” utilizes some cozy piano melodies, which really compliment Faiyaz’s often unnoteworthy vocals. The song questions how Faiyaz is expected to love someone when “They tell [him] he can’t love [himself]”. The song is an anthem of love being an all powerful force that can trump all the world’s injustices, which is a classic song concept however Faiyaz executes it simply and tastefully. The drums on this track are a perfect encapsulation of its smooth simplicity, as they follow a very simple pattern but are just crisp and groovy enough to drive the song.

If Faiyaz wants to preserve his longevity on subsequent projects, I hope he is able to find the same truthfulness and individuality in his musical voice that he has found in his actual one. Especially when Faiyaz is attempting to add to a narrative cannon that is so essential to the genres of rap and R&B, it’s difficult to approach him as more than a replication of an archetype or cliche when his production is indistinguishable from his contemporaries. If you like Brent Faiyaz, I would check out SiR, Leven Kali, or Berhana, who I’ve reviewed before. I’d definitely check out this album if you need a break from the hollowness of exorbitant spending and sexual escapades, or are a fan of The Weeknd or other similarly unapologetically narcissistic acts.

Romance by Camila Cabello

Album: Romance

Artist: Camila Cabello

Genre: Pop and Contemporary R&B

Record label(s): Epic and Syco

Recommended Tracks:

Camila Cabello is a Cuban-American singer, songwriter, and actress who was born on March 3, 1997. Camila rose to stardom when she was part of an all-female group called Fifth Harmony that was formed on the television show The X Factor (U.S) in 2012. She was working on her solo career while still on the group with releases of her own. Once she left the group and established herself as a solo artist, she began releasing collaborations with other artists. Camila has released many EP and singles but has only released two albums which include her most recent one, “Romance”, which was released on December 6, 2019. “Romance” continues with the theme of love that is on air a lot and considered a pop trope. However, this album feels more frisky but not too much. Much has to do with Camila’s charisma which her listeners enjoy a lot. “Romance” shows different ways of falling for someone, from the fling stage to freaking out about having feelings for a friend, to wanting to be around that person, to explain to your dad that things with this person might get serious. The music has a lot of Latin influence. I would rate this album a 5 out of 5 due to the theme of the album being one that is still enjoyable to listen to and the music being, Latin influenced, has a friskiness to it. 

The Track “My Oh My” is the fourth on the album. This song has an animated vibe to it that really adds to the theme of the song. Camila’s raspy and airy voice gives the song a very alluring feel. The music has clapping and amazing beats when DaBaby has his verses and that made the song feel bouncy. The theme of the song deals with falling for someone who is not the best person, maybe, but you can’t resist their bad, but insatiable, habits. 

“First Man” is the last track on the album. This track is about a daughter telling her dad about her new love and trying to explain that her new love is good. The music is more soothing and the piano really makes this song heartful and emotional. Camila’s voice is breathy and quiet, which makes this song feel much more meaningful and less upbeat than her other songs, which is a good contrast for the album. Having this song on the album really makes the whole theme of love’s journey more personal. 

“Romance” tells the love story that Camila Cabello has experienced and the public has seen. Showing the way love manifests and the different ways it does, is a very common topic but one that everyone can relate to. The Latin inspiration in the album gives is an amazing flare of spice that makes the album awesome. If you like Latin-Pop artists then I’d recommend you listen to Becky G as well. Overall, if you enjoy music that talks about love, then I recommend listening to Camila Cabello’s recent album, “Romance”. 

Thank U, Next by Ariana Grande

Album: Thank U, Next 

Artist: Ariana Grande 

Genre: Pop and Contemporary R&B

Record label(s): Republic Records and Universal International 

Recommended Tracks: Track 2- Needy  and Track 10- 7 Rings 

Ariana Grande is an American singer, songwriter, and actress from Florida. She began her career in 2008 starring on Broadway musicals. She got more recognition for her role as Car Valentine on Nickelodeon’s Victorious. She signed with her record after they found videos of her covering songs, and that’s when her music career took off. She released her first studio album, “Yours Truly” and released three more after, including her most recent, “Thank U, Next”, on February 8th, 2019. This album contains themes of vulnerability and emotions. Ariana has released songs with these themes, however, she mainly aimed toward a much stronger feel for her listeners. Thank U, Next shows a more vulnerable side to Ariana’s relationships with others and herself. This album dealt with a more real feel of Ariana’s life and it shows her journey. Her journey consists of ups and downs, much like the album with tracks that are meant to feel lower and others meant to feel upbeat. The album also explores different musical genres such as soul, pop-rap, and dancehall. I would rate this album a 5 out of 5 because the music and vocals are amazing while having a strong and relatable message. 

The second track on her album, “Needy”, is one of my favorites. This track mainly uses minimal instruments and quiet music that gives the song a sad vibe to it. The vocals are soft and quiet, which also adds to the sad vibe to the track. This song feels like Ariana is not afraid to show her “needy” side and she isn’t afraid to show it. The theme behind this song makes it feel even more vulnerable and relatable to listeners. Having a track that discussed the topic of feeling needy and wanting companionship, is a track a lot of people enjoy because it is an unspoken topic. Ariana suffers from anxiety and this song demonstrates this side of her that listeners and her fans can relate to and enjoy. 

The tenth track on the album is arguably one of the most popular ones on this album, “7 Rings”. This song was also featured as a single and has a different vibe and style than “Needy”. This track has an upbeat vibe and is a pop-rap, trap, and R&B style song. The meaning deals more with enjoying your close friends and the finer things in life given to you by your success, or in this case, Ariana’s success. The track demonstrates a moment in Ariana’s life in which she decided to focus on her success and friends while forgetting about the difficult times with relationships. This track does mention a lot of wealth but it emphasizes the “success” part. It leaves listeners with a feeling of being rich and focusing on yourself and having fun. The music has incredible beats and a very heavy bass vibe. 

“Thank U, Next” has proven to be very successful. The way it tells a story from having self-doubt to thanking life for the experiences and moving onto a new chapter in life. The album is a book on someone’s life, Ariana’s, but it can also suit the lives of anyone, as the album deals with personal themes that listeners can relate to. The heavy bass that is incorporated in the album is what got her fans hyped for this album. Ariana Grande has shown that it is okay to show vulnerability but as long as we can get up. If you like artists that express vulnerability but also show strength, I would recommend you listen to Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato. Overall, if you love music that you can relate and feel awesome to, then I highly recommend listneing to Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next”.

Endless by Frank Ocean

Album: Endless

Artist: Frank Ocean

Genre: R&B

Record Label(s): Def Jam Recordings

Recommended Tracks: Track 9*-Wither and Track 15*-Rushes

Frank Ocean emerged from the chaos of the odd future collective as one of the most prominent and individual voices within modern popular music. His reclusive persona, erratic releases, cult like following online, and of course the tragic, spacious beauty of his music have fomented a palpable mystique surrounding the man, his music, and everything he does. Frank’s debut solo mixtape, nostalgia, ULTRA. Was self- released via the odd future website in 2011. The mixtape pieces together prominent samples and interpolations of music that was important to Frank in his youth. While it is easy to write off some of this project as derivative, undeveloped, and even immature at points, there are some absolutely gorgeous moments across the project that forecast the songwriting prowess, conceptual construction, and raw talent that would turn Frank into a global superstar. Frank’s debut album. Channel Orange was released to much fanfare by the Odd Future and existing Frank Ocean fans, however this album really shot him into the national consciousness (although “Novacane” off of nostalgia, ULTRA. was a favorite for critics in 2011, and having been a part of Odd Future Frank was already well known, especially amongst teens/young adults). Channel Orange is a reference to the color Frank most strongly associates with his first time falling in love, and the album certainly conjures the warmth, beauty, innocence, and potent sexuality that I’m sure many would associate with their first love. The album wins a Grammy, Frank comes out in a letter that he released with the album, and the path to R&B superstardom seemed all but fulfilled. However, Frank had become disenchanted with the glamour, the award shows, the fanfare, belonging to a record label,  the constructs and pressure of fame, and for these and countless other potential reasons, Frank isn’t heard from much at all for 4 years. Most other artists would have their careers stunted by this kind of absence from both the limelight and from producing music, and Frank very well could’ve been had his silence been broken by a different project. However, tin the summer of 2016, a couple live streams of a warehouse with random positions of ambient noise, welding sounds, someone walking in front of the camera, and several other oddities sprang up on Frank’s personal website. The internet exploded with anticipation, wondering what these cryptic hints within the livestream could mean, writing words they thought they heard within the ambient noise, piecing together numbers within the background, and then all of a sudden on August 19, 2016, Frank dropped Endless, a video album featuring lo-fi production techniques, avant-garde aesthetics, spacious and sparse instrumentation, and the much refined rapping and singing of one Frank Ocean. The next day, Frank released Blonde, which was a much more straightforward album, with less lo-fi obscuring and with clearly more polish and deliberate songwriting. It was revealed that Frank had released Endless to fulfill his contract with Def Jam so he could release Blonde independently. The world raved at the genius move, and Endless was relegated being obsessed over by Frank Ocean fans on reddit, while Blonde debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200. While I love Blonde tremendously and it was extremely important to my development as a person as well as a listener of music, I think Endless is too often overlooked as a clever workaround by Frank, and not as the masterpiece it is within itself. Overall, I’d give Endless a 5/5, however if you haven’t already guessed by this point, I’m extremely partial to anything with Frank’s fingerprints on it. 

My first standout track is “Wither”, which I would almost say leans towards poetic vignette in its song structure. The bright strings (played by Alex G) and the faint female vocalizations in the background serve to add texture to the space in which Frank exists. Space is very important within the original mix of this album, as some things certainly seem closer, further, more or less obscured, and of course the whole album has the visual accompaniment of a warehouse, which means each track is atmospheric and spatially oriented in a very audible way. While the atmosphere on this track is gorgeous, as is Frank’s singing, for me it’s the lyrics that really separate this cut. I implore you to go and listen to the song or read them yourself, but generally the song is about the wish to have kids and allow them to see your warmth, as well as the space in which you created that warmth, and then for them to see you “wither”. The song title has a double-meaning embedded within it, in that wither can also be heard as “with-her”. This song is as avant-garde, poetic, and reserved as the rest of Endless, but my personal interpretation is Frank is meditating on the space created within love, and the ephemerality of that space, as well as the ephemerality and subjectivity of the human experience itself. In other words, Frank knows his time is limited, and he hopes his children get a chance to see his happiness and who he is and the things he loves before he wastes away, therefore in some way preserving him and the love he has felt. 

My second standout track is Rushes, which again is so meditative, poetic, and shapeless that it’s hard to describe its beauty. However this track is very similar compositionally to Wither, as Alex G takes the lead instrumentation, and Jazmine Sullivan lends her vocals to the soundscape. This song is about so many things. Wanting to matter, wanting to cease existing, living in polar emotional extremes, emotional stagnation, and countless other possible meanings gleaned from lyrical interpretation. Frank’s songwriting is so emotional and intimate, and his singing is just as emotive, which allows these tracks to have a poetic relativism to the listener. These songs have meant so many different things to me at different times. In one moment, a lyric might hit you exactly where you need it, or connect to you with a haunting intimacy amplified by the spaciousness of the sound. On Endless, Frank masters allowing space in the mix for the listener, which is something he also employs on Blonde, but I’d say the sonic palette of Endless lends itself even better to this practice.Overall, if this album missed you or you’ve only sort of watched the stream, I would go find the CD Quality tracks online and give it a listen. As progressive as Blonde is within its sound, I think Endless takes risks and combines ideas that I haven’t seen replicated anywhere else. While avant garde is a term that has been repeated to the point of obliviating any pure sentiment or meaning, the challenges Frank makes towards the typical structures of music and what is important within a song creates such a unique potency within Endless. If you like Frank Ocean, specifically Endless, I would check out some of this album’s collaborators, such as Alex G, Vegyn, or Sampha. I definitely would revisit this album whenever you’re in the mood for solitary meditation, or need a new soundtrack for crying in the shower.

Chixtape 5 by Tory Lane

Album: Chixtape 5
Artist: Tory Lanez
Genre: R&B
Record label(s): Mad Love & Interscope Records
Recommended Tracks: Track 3-Jerry Sprunger and Track 6-The Take

Tory Lanez is a R&B singer from Brampton, Canada. He is 27 years old and first started to gather musical attention and fame in 2016 from his single, “Say It”. So it’s safe to say that Tory Lanez has been known for his R&B touch and he continues that in, “Chixtape 5”. The album as a whole is just great to listen to. It gives you everything you would want and expect to hear, while also having many surprises as well. The biggest of the surprises was the remixes version of T Pain’s classic song, “I’m Sprung.” But aside from just that’s Track Tory carries over that early 2000’s type or R&B in this album. If I were to rate this album I would give it a 9 out of 10 because of the overall vibe and flow of the album. I find the entire album to be really vibey and relaxing with the features on the album being really fitting as well.

“Jerry Sprunger” is the third track off the album and seems to be everyone’s favorite. It is basically a remixed version of T Pain’s iconic single song “I’m Sprung”. With this being the first time ever that T Pain has ever remixed it. It has that really slow and loving vibe that can just set you in a good mood and Tory seems to be adding his own R&B touch to it himself, giving a little
mix up from the original song.

“The Take” is a song off the album that features another big time R&B artist, Chris Brown. Tory & Chris both collab on this track to give an all around great song and something exactly what you would expect from the two as they don’t happen to disappoint. Tory starts the song off with his own verse and let’s Chris Brown carry the song throughout with the chorus. This song is a great one to listen to and could be found as being really really relaxing.
Tory Lanez uses the 2000’s R&B throwback sort of flow to bring a sense of nostalgia to his album. He does this with the use of smooth beats and silky vocals. And this is also really appealing to the generation that grew up during the early 2000s. If you like Tory Lanez I would recommend listening to artists like Chris Brown, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Drake, Jacquees, & Bryson Tiller. Overall if you like the idea of an artist reflecting off of 2000s R&B you should definitely check out Tory Lanez and his newest album, “Chixtape 5”.

Wow… That’s Crazy by Wale

Album: Wow… That’s Crazy

Artist: Wale 

Genre: Rap/R&B

Record Label(s): Warner Records

Recommended Tracks: Track 4-Expectations (feat. 6LACK) and Track 13-Set You Free (feat. Kelly Price)

Wale is a seasoned vet of the rap and contemporary R&B scene at this point, and the self proclaimed ambassador for the D.C. metropolitan area sound. Although Wale has never had a smash hit, he has consistently succeeded on Billboard charts, and has had more staying power than many of the lyricism driven rap acts of the late 2000s. He was once the center of a multiple label bidding war, and has worked closely with artists from all over the pop music sphere, such as Mark Ronson, Pharrell Williams, and Rick Ross. While not the most compelling or earthshaking presence within the oversaturated archetype of the conscious rapper, Wale breaks this mold in ways that demonstrate why he was such a hot commodity within the rap world at some point. Wale definitely has an impressive stylistic range. His albums meander through sounds and ideas with enough competency, confidence, and composure that you can’t help but believe Wale most sonic settings. He is like a virtuosic actor, springing from a song reminiscent of bling rap bangers of yesteryear, into a heady rumination with a soulfully metronomic gospel swelling and descending in the background, then into an Afrobeat driven pop track with no agenda other than danceability. This capacity to transcend genre boundaries within pop is no doubt exciting, however it was around Wale’s last album The Album About Nothing that the faults in his chameleonism started to show. The album focuses on relationship and is an unabashed homage to Seinfeld, as you could likely interpret from the title. Nothing on the album is necessarily bad, it’s just that the tracks don’t feel particularly inspired or innovating. Wale’s mockingbird style songwriting starts to peek through a little bit, with certain tracks feeling like Wale donning the sounds of his contemporaries, or just lacking an impassioned effort at innovation within trite sonic palettes and lyrical subjects. Unfortunately, Wow… That’s Crazy falls into many of the same pitfalls. For example, on BGM, Wale attempts to make a very “Nice For What”-esque ladies anthem, except his attempt highlights many of his flaws as an artist, such as his inability to create compelling hooks, his pandering and faux-motivational refrains, all of it just feels like a very canned and disingenuous attempt at a song concept that’s been such much more tactfully approached in the past. So yes, Wale has the ability to inhabit a multitude of genres, however within those genres he often lacks the charisma and the creative gusto to pull of interesting songs. Because of that, I’d give this album a 2 / 5. It’s not an unenjoyable record overall, however listening to Wale wear sounds like costumes without much of a genuine attempt at investigating new territory \does become a monotonous process of. 

Two standout tracks I found enjoyable were Expectations (feat. 6LACK) and Set You Free (feat. Kelly Price). Expectations is one of the best feature pairings on the album, with a synthy bouncing beat that perfectly adorns 6LACK’s melancholic vocals. Unfortunately 6LACK sneaks an overused Rondo reference into his already lyrically uninspired verse, which doesn’t help the faceless homogeny Wale is fighting in his tracklist. However, Wale’s second verse about the relationship between comfort and vanity is a genuinely enjoyable take on a well explored phenomenon within rap. Is it corny to an extent? Absolutely, but I do think as far as Wale’s motivationally geared verses this goes over the best. Set You Free is also a more lyrically driven track, however because of the subject matter and the openness that Wale displays it’s a big standout for me within the tracklist. Wale talks about his struggle with mental health, and instead of going the route of Logic or some other emcees that have explored this topic, this is not an anthem. This is an honest and personal approach that I wish Wale employed on more tracks, because this is certainly a bright spot in the album

This album doesn’t necessarily deserve to be penalized for anything it’s doing. Aside from a few stray moments and BGM, nothing really annoyed me in the way woke motivational rappers often can. I think for this album it’s shortcomings come within the things it doesn’t do. In a rap world where features in mainstream rap are as eclectic as ever, Wale uses Jeremih, Rick Ross, Bryson Tiller, etc.. At a time where guys like J Cole and Kendrick are spilling their hearts out on wax, Wale only slightly treads away from attempting to give sage patronizing relationship advice. It may be harsh, but I do think in many ways rap and R&B have innovated past voices like Wale. Just being a rapper that sings sometimes and isn’t one dimensional genre-wise isn’t compelling enough when the rap is at the forefront of pop and is being expanded and tested in so many different and interesting directions. However, if you’re looking for something that will remind you of a simpler time in the rap world, or like rap and want to see if some of his takes on different sounds are more compelling to you, I’d definitely give this album a listen. If you like Wale, I’d recommend GoldLink, Big K.R.I.T, or Miguel.

La Linda by Tei Shi

Album: La Linda

Artist: Tei Shi 

Genre: Alternative R&B

Record Label(s): Downtown Records

Recommended Tracks: Track 3-Even If It Hurts and Track 11-We

Valerie Teicher Barbosa, better known as Tei Shi, has been a favorite amongst critics since her first couple singles that she dropped in 2013. Tei Shi exceeds at crafting soft, detailed, and lush pop that employs elements of synth pop, R&B, reggaeton (specifically dembow rhythm), as well as a bevy of other eclectic sound palettes. Barbosa is a Jewish Colombian-Canadian woman, and her diverse cultural identity shows itself across her discography. For example, while she usually sticks to signing in english, little bits of Spanish, as well as “Matando” a full Spanish song off of this album, appear speckled throughout her work. Tei Shi has been known to compose and produce, however on this album she doesn’t have any credits as a producer. However, she leaves the production to a group of outstanding talents, such as Daniel Aged, Noah Beresin of Chiddy Bang fame, and Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange. Overall, I’d give this album a ⅗, as sometimes the minimal instrumentation contrasted with Tei Shi’s soft singing create delicate and gorgeous cuts with enough understatement and intricacy as to appear avant garde and masterful. However, Tei Shi’s underwhelming vocals and the lush soft dreaminess of songs can also turn lots of tracks into soupy, nebulous, and even boring experiences. 

My first standout track is by far my favorite on the album, Even If It Hurts featuring Blood Orange with vocals and production. This song sounds a lot like a cut on which Dev might have landed on his last project Angel’s Pulse. This track exemplifies why aesthetic appraisals such as gorgeous, smooth, and lush, are so often applied to Tei Shi’s music. The drums on this track are hypnotic and driving, and are a perfect grounding exposition to the glitziness of the rest of the track. Dev Hynes shows why his blend of airy vocals, proud piano lines, and synthy meandering have been so enrapturing. While neither Dev or Tei Shi are amazing as vocalists, the sticky melodies and wonderful production more than atone for this. If this realm of music is of interest to you at all, I would strongly implore you to not make this a track you miss.

My other standout track is the one piloted by Daniel Aged, who recently worked on Frank Ocean’s much anticipated “DHL”. The track opens with bird sounds and a couple warm reverberating guitar chords. Tei Shi then closes her album with this short poetic strong that leaves me wondering what potential she has as a songwriter along with her already impeccable production sensibilities. I interpret this song as being about Tei Shi’s experience of being a woman, and how she has been subliminally coerced into negative self conception. One of the most biting lyrics is “The confidence they take away from we, it should be criminal, it’s so subliminal” which shows the collective experience of being subjugation that women have the burden of sharing. The song closes by rolling out some dark synths and looping some distorted noise that sort of sounds like pressurized air, and then finally the album closes as simplistically as it began, with bird noises.

Overall, I think Tei Shi relies a lot on the gorgeous production that she and her collaborators are able to create, and due to this her presence on the track often feels muted and lacking. I mean, understated airy vocals are very in vogue currently, however I can think of many more compelling vocalists and songwriters I’d like to see over this production. I think Tei Shi assumes a large effort on the listener to pick apart and recreate meaning from her poetic, vague, faint lyrics and singing, and while that has definitely worked for others and is an interesting approach to songwriting, I just don’t find many of the tracks compelling enough to want to revisit them enough times to find deeper meanings or small sonic modifications or cool mixing on sounds. However, on a few tracks I think concessions to conventional music practices and driving drums help songs maintain enough structure to allow the otherwise lovely production Tei Shi employs to shine. If you like Tei Shi, I would definitely check out Blood Orange if you somehow haven’t already, as well as Tennis, and potentially TOPS. If you want something light and beautiful to listen to in the background while doing something else, I think this album is definitely worth a listen.

YOU by Ali Gatie

Album: YOU

Artist: Ali Gatie

Genre: R&B/Soul

Record label(s): Warner records 

Recommended Tracks: Track 1- It’s You Track 8- “Holding On”

Ali Gatie is a Canadian performer who was born in 1997 in the city of Toronto. He started to listen to music at the age of 17. At age 20, he started to post his music online and started to collaborate with other producers, but he gained recognition from the RhymeStars song contest he won. He used this fame and released several tracks online and they went viral. He has been releasing tracks since 2017 and albums including his most recent being “YOU” on November 7th, 2019.  This album continues with the same theme and style of Soul and R&B music he has been producing which is a very enjoyed style on the radio now. Ali has a unique vibe to his music. This album includes previously released songs that have been popular. His songs about mainly about personal experiences told by raw lyrics that are companied by sound music. “YOU” follows the same theme of love, the turmoil, and amazing experiences it offers. This style of music is the reason why he spiked as an artist and has gained such a big following, he is able to connect with his listeners through his own feelings. If I were to rate this album, I would rate it a 5 out of 5 because of the music, it feels very soothing and calm, plus, the lyrics feel like a lot of heart and soul was poured into them, making it feel so personal. 

“It’s You” is the first song on the album and the most popular since Ali released it as a single. This song has a low vibe song that projects a lot of hurt feelings. The lyrics in the song repeat a lot of hurting and vulnerability, but also a lot of hope of love. The music starts off a guitar and another guitar playing a really saddening chord that gives the song a sad vibe from the start, it continues with a mainly acoustic ensemble of instruments that gives the song a minimal feel to it, making it even more saddening. The song is well made and it shows how much emotion and how much if himself Ali has put into this song.  

“Holding On” is the 8th song on the album. This song has a much more loud vibe to it and uses more sounds that feel like the world is falling on you. The loud thuds and echos feel as if you are surrounded by large objects and it makes you feel powerless, which is what Ali is saying in his lyrics, he feels powerless when it comes to wanting to move on, he is stuck on loving someone. The desperation is felt in this song and it feels sad and lonely. The lyrics express a lot of hope for his love. This song mirrors “It’s You” but it expresses how he still has hope even after a loss. 

Ali Gatie is a young man who uses his emotions as a guide in producing his music, which is unique and different from anything else. His style markets well to a younger generation, with personal experiences and low vibe music, most people could relate to it, especially the younger generation. “YOU” is an album that describes Ali’s love journey of falling in love up to acknowledging the loss of his love. The album has a sad and slow feel that makes the listener reminisce about their love and have a chance to express their emotions. If you liked the personal feel of the music, then I’d recommend listening to Tessa Violet and Waterparks. Overall, if you enjoyed an album that you can listen to when you feel sad and are hurting, you should listen to Ali Gatie’s recent album, “YOU”.