Leon Bridges’ old soul is rooted in the back of his vocal cords. He delivers transcendent – driving with the top down of your convertible – type of music. We’ve heard Leon Bridges deliver various sweet and tingling performances over loose and melodic string orchestration, sometimes reminding you of Otis Redding. We swayed with the rhythm of R&B, resonant of smooth-soft billowing from singers who presided with dominance. His attention to detail is awe-inspiring, which rarely gets underwritten by poor transition execution. He takes you on the backseat of his motorbike as he swoons you to smooth grooves, particularly from his softening-melodic vocals, on his new album Gold-Diggers Sound.
Throughout Gold-Diggers Sound, Leon Bridges shifts the location from the dim-lit music club to the bedsheets. “Steam” takes that approach by creating a sleek and vibrant track about winning over our date, who had you head over heels from her hotness. With these unique inflections, he brings self-assurance to the people who need to swoon a little more. Instead of playing classic Trey Songz or Jodeci to get in the mood, Leon’s music makes you work for it by allowing the females he sings about to have a dynamic perception of the situations at hand. Leon Bridges transfixes these ideas with grace and beauty that they become individualized highlights all their own.
Two tracks come to mind when reflecting on these intentional directions of love and intimacy: “Motorbike” and “Magnolias.” Each track is a whirlwind adventure through the nightly bustle as you marvel at the beautiful lights illuminating your way. It’s a two-pronged song that doesn’t billow in a puddle of basic conventions and delivers a worthwhile free-living experience. Being non-conventional is the definition of the album, bringing unique strengths from Leon Bridges’ remarkable vocal range.
“Magnolias” is a bit different. Leon Bridges finds himself inspired by magnolia trees and the music Sade within the construct of the song. It tells a beautiful tale about love juxtaposed with elevated moods. Leon is in a state of pure happiness and whimsy that his state of mind is loose with the thought of smelling magnolia trees, opposed to flowers. It’s like the fragrance offers a more poignant aroma that brings them this elevated/happy mood.
As he puts it in an interview with Apple Music: “I immediately was pigeonholed after my first album, and the more I continue to create, I want to be honest about the music that inspires me. I love the juxtaposition of that beautiful acoustic guitar with the more trap, modern R&B thing. My mother always used to encourage me to write a song about this magnolia tree that was in her backyard. And so I kind of took that and shaped the lyrics around it. In my head, as far as the chorus, it felt like this is how Sade would sing it in terms of that melody. That probably doesn’t make sense, but it made sense in my head at the time.”
The melodies and harmonies are reminiscent of a young Sade record. Leon Bridges doesn’t hide from what influences him, finding new ways to deliver with impact on the production. His producers, Ricky Reed, and Nate Mercereau, amongst others, add extra layers of textures of instruments that developed further in our modern era (1990 – Present) of music. The production is crisp and tight without feeling like another rendition of a song we heard previously. To Leon Bridges’ testament, his vocal performances have kept him afloat as he breathes new life to these songs. On Coming Home, he delivered “Smooth Sailin’,” which allowed you to feel the soft summer wind breezing every time the chorus came on. And on Gold-Diggers Sound, it becomes a recurring attraction.
Unfortunately, Gold-Diggers Sound doesn’t have pristine execution; transitioning from song to song you start to notice which songs pop, opposed to not. Amongst the aforementioned “Motorbike” and “Magnolias” is the song “Gold-Diggers,” which gets lost amongst the trove of spectacular songs surrounding it. This situation mirrors as the album comes to a close.
Preceding the last two tracks is the astounding “Sweeter,” with Terrace Martin, which details a story told through the perspective of a protagonist in the shoes of someone who has been slain due to unnecessary force by police officers. His sentiments explore a deep section of the subconscious that fears any pivot could trigger a radical response in any given situation.
Gold-Diggers Sound is a beautiful detour from his traditional work of the past. It packs songs that flow with the wind and the top down as you’re cruising down the coast. His fans will continue to enjoy his harmless and tender vocals, and new fans will discover the breath of fresh air he delivers amongst others in his genre.