Jessie Reyez – Yessie: Review

Among Jessie Reyez’s best qualities–that have overwhelmingly attracted me to her music–are her melodies and songwriting, which focus on establishing and delivering powerfully driven stories through distinctly dark and soulful tracks. Her debut, Before Love Came To Kill Us, masterfully stamped this as a known, but the consistency gets placated by Jessie trying to bring too many sonic ideas into the fold. That’s the opposite on Yessie, a more refined, intimate album that doesn’t try to go in various directions, instead finding herself musically. Yessie has smoother transitions between the R&B notes and variations of pop, soul, and rock overlays, which get concocted with different genre-style undertones within the production–equipped with depth and poignant lyricism; its concrete consistency makes it one of the best albums of 2022.

Yessie shows Jessie Reyez delivering atmospheric complexions between reflective coldness, hypnotic confidence, and personal contemplations of the now, leaving her heart on the sleeves bare with powerful emotions. Unlike her debut, the transitions between themes are pure, never making you feel disjointed as you proceed chronologically; the same goes for the production. Having it work is pivotal since we hear Jessie transitioning between distinct styles without stumbling, either in-song or song-to-song, like the Hip-Hop centric intro “Mood.” We hear her transition from a more Hip-Hop flow to a soul chorus with a harmonious sample of “Los Caminos De La Vida” by Los Diablitos of Colombia, which one would think these clashing styles would sound jarring. Fortunately, the synergy between them allows your imagination to grasp anything given and vibe with it effervescently. 

Though transitional effectiveness between songs is pure–starting clean with varying ilks of R&B/Hip-Hop/Pop–later vigorously with more distinct and generative styles as it turns the bends with “Mutual Friends.” Like the songs that preceded it, Jessie’s coming at it with ferocity through more personable one-on-ones no matter the style, like with “Tito’s” or “Forever.” Its soulful confidence adds contrasting layers that mesh beautifully. Here, Jessie and featured artist 6lack sing to their significant other, who is making a mistake by leaving a situation that reflects opposites attract. “Forever” is a compelling contrast to the aforementioned “Mutual Friends,” which backs the sentiments of the impactful “Queen St. W,” which establishes Jessie’s coldness that further gets reflected during the bridge and chorus of “Mutual Friends.” “Yeah, our mutual friend/Asked me how I sleep with so much hate in my heart/I told them I sleep like a baby,” (Bridge), “But if you died tomorrow, I don’t think I’d cry/I gave you one too many nights” (Chorus). The production’s consistency in elevating the effectiveness of her melodies and lyrics is potent here, capitalizing on a uniquely triumphant piano ballad. “Mutual Friends” minimizes or relatively dilutes the drum beats, letting Jessie Reyez discharge intensely and leaving me speechless as it takes notes from Billie Eilish’s dark-pop style, except Jessie makes it her own. Each track is different, refreshing, and significantly impactful on both ends, whether she is coming cold, confident, or lamenting, yearning for more as the music hits on the senses it evokes.

It becomes a testament to Jessie Reyez’s will to express herself refreshingly through radiant production that doesn’t juke you around in the ups and downs, primarily because there aren’t any off kiltered moments. She isn’t trying to formulate too many ideas and forcing them to acquiesce chronologically. Though there is some fantastic work on Before Love Came To Kill Us, her debut, it isn’t more concrete like Yessie. Yessie is more of a translation of Jessie Reyez’s being through varying situations she found herself in personally and how they’ve morphed her into who she is. We hear that through various styles, which get incorporated into the sounds like the confidently nuanced and personably fun “Tito’s” or the emotionally potent and rock stylings of “Break Me Down.” Two contrasting sounds amongst each other and other tracks on the album bring monstrous energy that has them feeling in line with the contextual tones throughout, specifically the latter. “Break Me Down” has the style and vibe of a mid-00s emo rock track with great explorative depth that you’re staying along due to its consistency with the transitions, like when we go from the cold “Mutual Friends” to the confident and mesmerizing “Tito’s.”

“Tito’s” is a darker dance-pop groove that hits those dance censors, making you groove to the beat as Jessie Reyez exhumes immense confidence in her lyrics and melodies. Its summery post-disco influenced production by Calvin Harris and Maneesh, as Jessie reminds us of the depth of her talent by turning a potential rudimentary dance banger into something more complex. After getting heard on“Mood,” we hear Jessie singing in Spanish more frequently, which we’ve rarely heard her do in the past–neé a feature with Romeo Santos saw her performing predominantly in English to his Spanish. It’s an extension of the strengths of Reyez’s monstrous performances, adding value at the end with the primarily Spanish track, “Adio Amor.” It adds exponential value to Jessie’s artistic duality, which sees her transcend soundscapes and deliver pure authenticity. It’s what stayed flowing through my mind–how impactful and less derivative of itself it is, as we see these fruitful transitions that never have you second guessing.

The music of Yessie is swarthy, melancholy sounds, creating gripping relatability that takes different sonic outlooks that aren’t as predictable. From the bilingual electro-R&B “Adios Amor,” which continues to show Jessie Reyez’s coldness, to the similarly thematically driven rock-like “Break Me Down.” It’s a crisp progression of greatness as Jessie Reyez capitalizes on delivering a personification of herself with remarkable depth. It isn’t an album that exponentially breathes club, or dance bangers, instead letting it round out stylistically akin to the atmosphere/tones derived from the beginning, becoming more apparent or subtle as it goes along. It left me bewildered with excitement, as Jessie Reyez has been someone who’s shown to me that she can create something special, and she does so here. Go check out Yessie now!

Rating: 10 out of 10.

PJ Morton – Watch the Sun: Review

Immaculate vibes. In the simplest terms, that’s what PJ Morton’s new album Watch the Sun brings us. Throughout his career, PJ Morton has taken influence from his musical upbringing and brought some free-spirited albums, along with more “serious” projects. No matter the direction taken, PJ offers a lot of delightful tracks with depth, vibrancy, and captivating melodies. It makes each album a marvel to listen to, even when it lacks consistency in quality, albeit never in tone. Watch the Sun brings a beautiful cadence with its summery atmospheric textures, whimsical melodies, and vibrant production, masking some of the blemishes, and particularly, some features don’t bring an A-game, focusing more on tonal fit, which weaves some dull lyrics.

Watch the Sun evokes many genres: R&B, soul, gospel, hip-hop, etc. though it never feels bloated, contrived, and cornered into offsetting the tangential flow it’s taking us on. The blending never falters, giving us these elegant shifts in styles with keen transitions that don’t make us double-take as it sometimes transitions between contrasting styles. There’s “Please Don’t Walk Away” with soulful-jazzy production that contrasts what follows, the eponymous track, which incorporates reggae drum beats within soulful island strings. It never skips a beat. It continues to show as such, with PJ Morton’s eloquent construction, like closing on a three-track string where sandwiched between two soulful-gospel tracks is a remarkable summer R&B hitter with El Debarge. 

The consistency can shadow some of the emotionally resonant songwriting at first before fully immersing in its blend. Watch the Sun is not something that hits you right away; it sweeps you up your feet with its production, a constant vibe, and later, it keeps you floating with some remarkable performances. PJ Morton sings about different topics centered on an emotional core, under surface layers reflecting niche subtexts within his beliefs and sadness. It gets boasted by the production, which juxtaposes lyrical tone with a vibrant-summer aesthetic, which subtly flows through its veins. It is telling us the sunlight never breaks, despite these down moments; what culminates is a reminder that PJ is on a fantastic high, artistically, throughout.

PJ Morton rides strong with his lyricism, but it isn’t as consistent with all his features. For the most part, some are coming with verses written to only capture the fit of the content and atmosphere without delving deeper into style. With Nas on “Be Like Water,” he brings some fun rhythmic linguistics, like when he raps: “Just a figment of imagination/A wickedness I’m not relatin’, situation, lookin’ at it lately/With the wisdom of a man who made it,” but it lacks some emotional gravitas, especially compared to what PJ and Stevie Wonder bring. It’s the same with Wale on the subsequent track. Wale brings more emotion, but the bars aren’t that interesting and too direct. 

However, it isn’t exclusive to both rappers, as long-time collaborator JoJo comes across like any standard, non-creative singer. She harmonizes well with PJ, but it can’t keep the interest afloat. That isn’t to say the track is poor, but having a more profound singer would make it more potent with its theme of mental self-care. It’s effective as is and masked within the amplified atmosphere of the production, but it isn’t as powerful as “Still Believe” or “On My Way.” In a way, it adds the low-scale title when speaking in a range of quality, or simply put, at worst, the track is just fine, and at best, they are fantastic. But ultimately, it’s a vibe. It’s an album that you can have on loop without subverting your focus.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Silk Sonic – An Evening With Silk Sonic: Review

What starts as the ambition to make the people groove on two feet as the production’s glossy rhythm infectiously manipulates the neurons in their brain became a little more profound, fun, and nuanced for Silk Sonic: the new super duo, consisting of Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars. The two have been known for the electrifying R&B-Soul infusions that expand its limits by balancing it out with a modern flair – Anderson did so with Malibu and Ventura, and Bruno Mars for most of his career. And uniting for An Evening with Silk Sonic, they deliver just that. This collaboration offers a quick, whirlwind experience that paces itself swiftly for a predominantly up-tempo album.

Riding the coattails of the summer smash and bed rocking, “Leave the Door Open,” the expectations were high for the duo, to only be boosted by the inclusion of Bootsy Collins MCing the album/performances. The song heightens the strengths of both artists, and if most of what we were to get mirrored that, then it would be a great album. And most songs do, like the eloquent and swagger-filled “Fly As Me,” which sees Anderson back to his smooth and smile-inducing rhythm and flows that sometimes feel like a fever-dream when he delivers. Parallel to it comes many, like “Smoking Out The Window,” which cements Bruno Mar’s effervescent presence as he leads another song.

For Anderson .Paak and his adlibs – they don’t hit the landing as frequently as his rapping and drum playing on An Evening with Silk Sonic. But his presence is pivotal in blending in a nuanced cool vibe – a kind that has you rocking the flashiest bell-bottoms with a loose and colorful button-down. Most of the time, it is the Bruno Mars show, and his presence has an elegance, especially in the backing vocals – in contrast to Paak and his. It’s subtle, barely making a dent in the quality of the song, which goes to show the skill of these artists, who can keep the fluidity despite hiccups.

The chemistry between the two is seamless – each song has the kind of synergy that gets you feeling lifted and one with your body, but it focuses on a heavy-set mood that can’t play at any given moment. It embodies more than just your standard, hyper-set, and linear models where themes align to tell a big picture; it personifies the locomotive engine in your legs that moves without proper nerve functions. You can attribute it to the dynamic palette like a shimmy-two step, slow dance grooves, and swaggalicious percussion rhythms that you can’t help but get lost within the 32-minute album. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel like 32 minutes. Once it ends, it may send you trekking into older music or keeping An Evening With Silk Sonic on repeat. 

However, An Evening With Silk Sonic flying by swiftly made me feel like I didn’t truly hear the songs in-between “After Last Night” and “777.” It took continuous listens for the unique productions to shine and differentiate themselves amongst the rest. Though a part of me feels the awe-inducing production, lyrics, and vocal performances on “After Last Night” left a heavy impression. It’s the only song to contain credited features – Bassist Thundercat and the Mack Daddy of Bassists, Bootsy Collins – to perform backing vocals. Thundercat’s inclusion is subtle, but it adds to the beautiful reverb in the chorus, while Bootsy continues to MC on this journey – mixing that with the funkadelic and bass-heavy production is what kept that delightful ring in the ear.

But it’s more than just his captivating voice that brought about a constant return for me to these songs in between the previously mentioned. “Smoking Out The Window” is a powerhouse performance that sees Mars carrying, as Paak delivers a forgettable verse. “Put On A Smile” is crooning at its finest, with the contrasting pitches shining over the more subdued production, but if I were to select a weak link, it is this song, as it doesn’t hold steady weight, compared to the others that keep a specific groove stuck in my mind – simply it feels like a stoppage gap where the music slows back down a little.

For “Smoking Out The Window,” it’s easy to gloss over Anderson Paak’s verse, considering Paak shines almost everywhere else like on “Silk Sonic Intro” as he establishes the riotous energy that will slowly peak after “Leave The Door Open.” The grooves come like a rollercoaster – a prominently effective one – it’s fun with individual highlights, but some moments keep you on heavily focused, especially the final song. “Blast Off” sends off the album on a high note with soulful and spacey sonic symmetry that you feel like it is sending you into space. And it’s a feeling that becomes more and more resonant with countless listens. From these listens, you start to marvel at the craftsmanship between both artists, especially when they are hitting a peak in greatness.

An Evening With Silk Sonic reaches its goal, despite being less than perfect. It is hypnotic and transfixing as your body sways to the rhythm, unaware that the two-step and gyration is just part of feeling the effervescent vibe throughout. But as you connect to it closer, the more it becomes part of your mood-dancing mix – this includes you cool cats out there, sippin’ bourbon neat, and smoking cigarettes before the dance floor utters the first letter of your name. If only An Evening With Silk Sonic was longer, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Joy Crookes – Skin: Review

Making comparisons can wane any influence someone can have on an artist before exploring their music. To put it mildly — a comparison hit me when I first played Joy Crookes. It was the feeling from listening to the Amy Winehouse album Frank for the first time. And as little as this comparison weighs, on her artistry, I couldn’t help but become enamored with Joy’s vocal performances, as it beautifully layers over elegant soul-centric production — sprinkling a touch of Jazz and R&B undertones. Joy Crookes’ vocal range and delivery carry a simple nuance to Amy’s traditionalist style while standing firmly on two feet. Listening to her debut, Skin, Joy Crookes steps up to the mount, pitching change-ups in between a few curveballs, giving us a wide range of music that made me feel like I was listening to Frank (2003) for the first time, again.

When I listened to Skin for the first time, I had to stop before returning due to the chills that ran down my spine from the vocal nuances. It takes me back to the late 2000s where I first listened to Frank, and the reverb on the backing vocals gave it new dimensions we’ve yet to see in modern traditionalist vocal pop-jazz. You felt Amy Winehouse’s pain, desires, hope, and at times, fun promiscuity with her vocal inflections. With Joy Crookes, it is the same as Skin takes you through various turns in her life, singing about themes about family and identity as she lets loose emotions reflective of the context. However, one specific performance took me back; on “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” her melody switches between the pop, soul, and jazz aspects. It’s similar to “Take the Box” off Frank

Skin opens with two songs rooted in identity, flipping in style from the somber “I Don’t Mind” to the unrestrained “19th Floor.” The former focuses on an ex-relationship — predominantly on the sex — Joy Crookes delivers her vocal performance with a reflexive and uplifting manner that contains some nuances of empowerment. It deals with her controlling her body and the situation by constantly reminding the lad that she will leave if he garners any feelings. With the kind of dynamics looming over society, like having the nuclear family or stability, Joy is trailblazing. She makes it okay to have more ownership and to have this different dynamic without feeling external pressure. 

“19th Floor” tackles identity through visceral metaphors and allusions to her life growing up in South London and reflecting the differences between her and her mother and grandmother’s life before immigrating to London. In the song, she revisits her hometown, where she was born, reflecting on far she has gone since — making allusions to immigrants who yearn and achieve success, only to reminisce about memories of the past, good and bad. As she sings: “Nothing same but nothing different/Hear the people cry concrete lullabies/I never thought I’d say I miss it” — you’re nostalgia inducers are hit. You miss the consistencies. And for Joy, she starts to feel more rooted in her mother’s side, using histrionics to put herself in her grandmother’s shoes — noting in the bridge: “Bopping down Walworth Road, bubblegum blow/Sliders and Sunday clothes/Doing like my Nani, 70s steez”: she is feeling herself and more connected. She may have doubts, but taking her mind back to and summoning their energy adds positive brevity. 

Joy Crookes has a vocal range that plateaus most singers these days, allowing ease when switching between neo-soul/jazz style vocalizations/production and more traditionally produced/performed songs. She establishes a fine line between the two, leaving room to explore with modern tweaks from producer Blue May, whose fingers predominately touch and mix keynotes of the production. And as evident with the first two songs, it feels more natural. 

Blue May, amongst others, sprinkles elegant touches of operatic and choral strings that vibrate and give off effervescent sounds that keep you engaged as Joy Crookes bares her soul into some of the themes of Skin. It makes Skin akin to albums like To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar or What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye, where the focus was to ride powerful themes instead of focusing on whether or not the next record will do gangbusters. Few songs on Skin make me feel like the aesthetic focused on finding its way onto radio, with “Trouble” being something similar to “Alright,” where the song’s rooted in being anti-pop in sound. Similarly, it’s reflective with “Wild Jasmine,” as she speaks to her alter-ego and steers her from other trouble in the form of a manipulative male who is with you for the skin and not what comes with it. It has a poppy-soul and fluid production that shifts to melancholy and back. Though the subtleties allow for an easier transition — from the flourished and catchy chorus performances to the intricate songwriting of the verses — Joy can transfix you on every front. 

It isn’t the only time she teeters around these kinds of soundscapes, giving the same treatment to “Kingdom” that she did with “Trouble.” It’s catchy and filled to the brim with vibrant jazz percussion that makes you want to find your groove within the pack of songs that elevates her vocal performance to a different level than the piano ballads. The title song, “Skin,” centers on mental health and keying in on ideas like suicide and depression. Joy asks herself a simple question, What if you decide that you don’t wanna wake up, too? It comes over an eloquent piano-centric production that keys in at tugging the core of your emotions — Skin has me against the ropes, delivering jabs of unique songs — jabs that repeat, something new about it hits me, specifically, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now.” 

Skin is unreal. It left me juggling many emotions while leaving me in awe of the varying performances and styles by Joy Crookes and her producers. However, any minor problems with the album come from “Skin” having a wrought (song-type) but effective delivery and “Power” being a little bit forgettable at first. But that doesn’t stop me from finding pure joy and admiration from her talent and focus in her phenomenal debut, as I know you might when listening to Skins.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Lion Babe – Rainbow Child: Review

Imagine the most trivial roller coaster you have ever ridden, and now imagine having to ride it consistently, knowing that the few bright spots aren’t always everlasting. That has been the ride Lion Babe fans have been on since their major-label debut, Begin. The songs that stood out were ones that have been released prior, like “Jump Hi” featuring Childish Gambino. On their follow-up, Cosmic Wind, we received an eclectic array of soul/R&B and funk hybrids that felt authentic to their artistry. Unfortunately, we’re back at the dull moments of that roller coaster ride as their new album, Rainbow Child, has pacing that can beat a hare in a race. 

Cosmic Wind is the epitome of the phrase: breath of fresh air. Begin is forgettable and clunky and lacking balance in appeal. They were limited by the label to make the album marketable, as the closest thing to marketability, on the surface, is the fact that Jillian Hervey is Vanessa Williams’ daughter. Set that aside. She didn’t rely on nepotism to make a name for herself, as she hustled with her producer, Lucas Goodman, to grow organically. Her vocal range and performances speak for themselves, as it allows her to experiment with various sounds. Rainbow Child takes a step back from this, as the production dwindles into the realm of simplicity – this is where they focus on more detail and less extensive. 

Lion Babe is known for keeping features to a minimum, and this has let them find perfect pairings that translate over. On the opening song, “Rainbows,” Jillian Hervey’s performance carries expressive range, from the high pitch chorus to the smooth melody of the verses, the steady drop mirrors perfectly. It benefits from solid verse by Ghostface Killah, as he brings validation to Lion Babe’s way of finding the perfect pairing for a song.

Along with Trinidad James, other features on the album stand out individually, “Signs” with rapper, Siimbiie Lakew. “Signs” is a high point Rainbow Child, as rapper Siimbiie Lakew brings a cadence and intimacy in his performance. It’s saddening to see them almost lose control of their individualized freedom as the featured artists are more memorable than Jillian Hervey. They focus on weaving the songs with beautiful visuals. This creates some fluidity, but most people won’t be listening and watching in tangent unless you’re a superfan.

Due to this, the album teeters on and off, catching you by surprise by these featured performers who outperform Hervey; Lucas Goodman’s production, not as much. Goodman’s eclectic production contains ever-changing spotlights as he toys with psychedelic and acoustic sounds. He allows for the simplicity to mold into an effervescent array of moods, between togetherness and spirited. On the vocal end, we see Hervey finding a happy medium, matched with the underwhelming songwriting. “Going Through It” has a smooth-twinkly percussion, which emboldens Hervey’s slow tempo, despite boring lyricism that breaches a level of preachiness.

Neither member of Lion Babe has been consistently great; however, you’ll know when the music lands. You’ll become mesmerized as they pick you up from the corner seat and onto the dance floor. There aren’t many instances where this is the case on Rainbow Child, except for “Get Up,” which elevates the smooth slow-dancing grooves that aren’t prevalent in classical styles. Jillian Hervey and Trinidad James make the most of lavish-80s nostalgia influences within production. The brass horns create a bridge toward the soft percussion, as the piano keys and bass round out their colors. Trinidad adds that beautiful fusion with his effortless flow, which has grown throughout the years.

Unfortunately, in between the few highlights, Rainbow Child can be very forgettable. The intangibles of the album’s production allow it to breathe from beneath the rubble of mediocrity. It feels lost and not the trippy fun created by stringy performances and elegant sound layering. Lucas Goodman’s production has a natural way of transitioning from one to another, and as much as Hervey tries, she doesn’t command focus. Unless you hear the featured artist, it’s hard to distinguish which song is playing.

Rainbow Child leaves me feeling bewildered as the talent doesn’t mirror what is expected, especially with the simplicity of the songwriting. It doesn’t fit the character mold well, thus leaving less to the imagination and adding pressure toward the featured artist. It does leave you with one thing, a want to return to Cosmic Wind on a warm summer day. 

Rating: 5.5 out of 10.

Prince – Welcome 2 America: Review

When word spread of a non-collection of demos and records from Prince’s vault, the world felt a sigh of relief to receive new music without fearing for a producer’s intervention. We heard that this album, Welcome 2 America, was one that Prince had shelved after its recording. And after some rough years with tragic releases that undercut artists’ legacies, like Michael Jackson and Pop Smoke, there were worries that this new album could potentially deliver something similar. However, that isn’t the case. Welcome 2 America is this groovy-funkadelic soul journey that takes through histrionics of culture’s control in society.

Most of Welcome 2 America reminds us of what we’ve been missing over the last half-decade. Prince has had a presence everywhere, despite minimal hiccups within some of the instrumentations. There isn’t a moment where the music feels fully dated. He speaks on the influence social media and the internet have on creating biased opinions. But it isn’t like Prince is equating to the meme – The Simpsons Predicting Things. Instead, Prince has a keen eye on the stimulation consistent backslaps from the judicial system, and more can create amongst a crowd. 2020 was a testament to that momentous uproar amongst the community.

Before the start of Prince’s Welcome 2 America tour, his band accompanied him in the studio to record some music, particularly about the social-political climate in America and more. He distinguishes the rights of one and the view imparted on them based on blind societal construction. In the opening song, Prince delivers in spoken-word / singing hybrid delivers this wide range of ideas that flowed through his head as he saw the world progress. It continues to elevate throughout the album, taking away aspects of the dance movements for electrifying emphasis on the songwriting.

This is effervescent on the songs “Same Page, Different Book” and “Running Game (Son Of A Slave Master),” which breaths onto life’s recurring redundancies. It speaks on the changes needed as these redundancies become a more glaring issue. It finds ways to fix a community presence to keep the attention of the listener through the instrumentations.

Prince has had a consistent procession with rockabilly sensibilities behind his various eras, from disco to funkadelic power-rock and others. It isn’t missing here as Prince takes us back to a moment where this sound rang supreme for him. So there will be an urge to groove to the rhythm, despite the deep meaning in the songwriting. For example, In the song “Born 2 Die,” Prince creates a parallel to living-free as he speaks about the dangers that could kill a character, like external temptations. Prince approaches these subjects carefully to create the right atmosphere amongst the collection of tracks. It makes the transition between songs that bring out a two-step and ones that bring out your inner beret-wearing-coffee-drinker sensibilities (musically). 

The songs that follow a similar path to “Born 2 Die” come across with beautiful bravado. “Yes” and “Hot Summer,” in particular, are these breaths of fresh air with commanding gospels that create unison from those who dance around with glee. It stems from a looser sensibility that comes from an elongated sunset and calming weather of the summer. “Yes” gets you up on two feet as you rejoice with the band in this unified mix of glee and happiness that stem from trying and seeing new pastures.

Unlike “Yes,” “Hot Summer” is a delicate summer fling that doesn’t boast the tracks around it. Others feel part of a bigger collective, while this feels too focused on being a summer anthem. From the infectious percussion and harmonies by Prince and his band, this small stoppage gap delivers behind Prince’s strengths. It’s a highlight from the album that isn’t fully there. To its merit, one could easily find themselves grooving to this on any given day or whenever your focus isn’t to play this from start to finish.

These transfer over to other songs like “1000 Light Years From Here.” This song contrasts themes with the instrumentations. It blends lively sounds with serious songwriting that speak about the prototypical American Dream. For some, it is a true dream that becomes a reach, while others create their own far from the gravitational center of society. 

The songs that fluctuate instrumentally around similar sentiments are usually the best. One of my favorites songs on the album, “Stand Up And B Strong,” delivers on all cylinders. It builds momentum by fueling the internal desire to feel heard and capitalize on unified strengths. Like on “Yes,” there is an overwhelming sense of wanting happiness and determination that brings us closer together. 

There aren’t many songs that feel minimally off. But there is a reason Welcome 2 America got shelved in 2011. It isn’t perfect, and the humility it adds to Prince as a musician leaves you feeling comfortable and warm about its perception later down the road. Welcome 2 America takes itself seriously and is vibrant enough that most will enjoy the many songs on this, while others may feel lukewarm – understandably so. This album is fun and a nice relic of the past; however, it would have been understandable if it remained shelved.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Mariah the Scientist – RY RY World

As is with many genres, there are those who keep it traditional and others who adapt; however, there are those who find equilibrium with the two. Mariah the Scientist is one of these artists who has that cadence in their voice; the naturality of it immediately drawn to her swan song. Like her debut in 2019, Master, and onto her follow-up, Ry Ry World, take away from any impression that her voice and songwriting ability are the true selling point. She isn’t this profound singer with a standout quirk like Beyonce’s operatic range or Chris Brown’s ability to create infectious hooks, but she stands out with her own beauty. Ry Ry World is like an album coming to you with its natural beauty opposed to being overly glamorized to boost the attention they garner.

Like the cover art, Ry Ry World delivers what the photo represents. A satirical take on Cupid’s arrow, Mariah the Scientist is struck by it through the heart. And this isn’t your typical arrow, given the flesh wound through the heart. The smile on her face adds this beautifully exposed confidence giving further vindication to the everyday-hood of heartbreak. From this, she takes us on a whirlwind, 29-minute long, adventure full of smooth R&B/Soul ballads and minimalist dance numbers.  

Mariah the Scientist places a lot of focus on herself, with lone performances bringing forth a beautiful array of new compositions that feels a little too similar to Master, but packing its own punch to return. The content, displaying the various issues – mentally – with love and beauty within the growth, comes in a beautifully ribbon-tied package. Her tales of heartbreak align with situational issues that develop further, like a cheating partner on “Aura” or the inner turmoil (logically) one deals with when fighting them on “Brain.” She breaches into sensitive territory as she sings about suicidal thoughts on the track “RIP.”

As Mariah keeps herself in tune with her growing presence, she sings with an abundance of confidence, riding the waves of shoulder brushing with ease. Like anyone going through heartbreak it can be a roller coaster ride, and Mariah makes use the pivots to explore the aspects of the emotions, whether slow burning or impulsive. The cohesion gives it the spark needed to retain your attention because to some, the nuanced simplicity within the production may weaken the interest. Though to her credit, she finds ways to shine alongside notable features, even if they don’t always land. 

These tracks work with accomplishing their intentions, but that doesn’t benefit the overall feeling you’d receive. “Always n Forever,” featuring Lil Baby, displays the toxicity with blind love beneath the earnestness these artists evoke. They signal this blindness by the attention they put into this addiction or love. While Mariah delivers a solid performance, Lil Baby doesn’t offer much to leave an impression. It could be because I’m not in a financial state where buying a significant other a new car is financially responsible, so the relation runs thin despite the virtuoso talent he has.

The other track, “Walked In,” featuring Young Thug, cuts to the chase. It simplifies the intentions of – possibly many, but not all –millennial people – i.e. breathes the night club life or career focused that relationships are taboo, opposed to finding someone to deliver that missing stress reliever. “Walked In,” is a decadent dance number, sweating sex, literally and figuratively, as the groove is dirty, but slow. Young Thug comes with a solid verse that blends in well with Mariah in one of the few standout performances on Ry Ry World.

Like the aforementioned “RIP,” there are several performances that shine. “All For Me” shows Mariah expressing range beyond a melancholic tonal scale and getting her hands dirty with it. The powerful inflections on the chorus drives home the broken jealousy she has for the woman her man left her for. This comes across as the denial from her feelings that were expressed on “Aura,” which keens in on the cheating. She doesn’t give this performance a confident bravado and at-times sounding dismayed due to the slight doubt there is something wrong with her. Despite this the album can be a bit redundant, but the external factors keep you reeled in till the end.

Mariah feels comfortable in her skin, never seeming to find a necessity to be more grandiose than who she is. She has shown the ability to keep increasing her range as a singer, and growing as a songwriter. As redundant as Ry Ry World can be, full of heartbreak-tracks, there is enough originality to keep it afloat amongst fans as she continues to grow and possibly discover new content to approach.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.