When Ravyn Lenae emerged on Chicago’s R&B scene in 2015, she was a sensory architect. Her vocals have been eclectic: a singular neo-soul model that channeled Erykah Badu’s nasal coolness and a falsetto that carried whispers of FKA twigs. Between 2015 and 2017, Lenae launched two EPs, exploring a mode of different R&B that integrated components of dream pop, bounce, and soul. Between opening excursions for Noname and SZA, Lenae seemingly discovered her groove on 2018’s Steve Lacy-produced EP Crush, a group of daring electro-funk bed room bangers. She appeared unstoppable, releasing a lot in a short while interval that it was exhilarating to see what she had lined up subsequent. Apart from a number of teases, nonetheless, Lenae went radio silent for the higher a part of 4 years.
Her debut full-length, HYPNOS, arrives as a mature reintroduction, a love-stained, moody transport that flies via Lenae’s world with a featherlight cadence. Lenae surveys the latest historical past of soul, various R&B, and even Afrobeats with precision. However most significantly, her debut showcases her ascendant vocal prowess as she strikes throughout her big selection with ease. Lenae’s transcendental poise establishes her as a resonant voice in R&B.
The rapid enchantment of HYPNOS is simply how tantalizing Lenae’s preparations are amid acquainted soundscapes. On earlier songs like “Sticky” or “Free Room,” Lenae tapped into her greater register, however right here Lenae’s soprano has turn out to be a gravitational drive. On the Kaytranada-produced “Xtasy,” Lenae’s sultry and blithe singing washes over the beat like water beading off a automotive. “Lullabye,” a kiss-off to a former lover, strikes via melismatic harmonies like clockwork. “I hope she retains you heat at night time/That is our lullabye,” she croons, however you already know she’s going to be OK simply by her composure.
For somebody already lauded for her singing, Lenae’s vocal approach on HYPNOS is the work of a perfectionist. Her sound has blossomed right into a potpourri of the R&B feminine icons of the final three many years, however particularly of the ’90s and early ’00s. The obvious comparability right here is Aaliyah, however Lenae’s vocal composition honors many on HYPNOS, pulling from Brandy’s “vocal bible” riffs and Solange’s visionary harmonies, Kelela’s outré artistry, and Future’s Youngster’s lullabying melodies. “Venom,” a seething funkadelic synth-led monitor, feels caught between one thing off OutKast’s Stankonia and Brandy’s “What About Us?”. “Why do you play me for a idiot?” Lenae asks, earlier than descending into harmonies that unravel like these on Solange’s “Rise.” On “Cameo,” Lenae brings again Lacy and frequent collaborator Luke Titus for a cool opener that remembers the synth bass sound of Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon.” The influences are by no means distracting a lot as they’re twinkling, enjoyable, and thoroughly blended.
Sounding like another person is certainly not the restrict to Lenae’s inventive yield; she is as confident as she is exploratory. Reasonably than replicating a nostalgia that’s turn out to be commonplace, she has earnestly studied these forebears and utilized their strategies to her personal model of sentimental and intense music. “Gentle Me Up,” the album’s attractive, slow-burning centerpiece, creates a moodboard of R&B references, and digs deep into the thrill of sexual exploration: “Come inside/Present me you’re the chief/Switchin’ sides/Make me a believer,” she begs. Lenae’s weightless falsetto and stimulated writing make it a feminine modern to D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Really feel).”