Ravyn Lenae - HYPNOS Music Album Reviews

Ravyn Lenae - HYPNOS Music Album Reviews
The 23-year-old Chicago singer’s long-awaited debut makes a close study of R&B history, floating through weightless vocal arrangements with uncommon poise.

When Ravyn Lenae emerged on Chicago’s R&B scene in 2015, she was a sensory architect. Her vocals were eclectic: a unique neo-soul style that channeled Erykah Badu’s nasal coolness and a falsetto that carried whispers of FKA twigs. Between 2015 and 2017, Lenae released two EPs, exploring a mode of alternative R&B that incorporated elements of dream pop, bounce, and soul. Between opening tours for Noname and SZA, Lenae seemingly found her groove on 2018’s Steve Lacy-produced EP Crush, a collection of daring electro-funk bedroom bangers. She seemed unstoppable, releasing so much in a short time period that it was exhilarating to see what she had lined up next. Aside from a few teases, however, Lenae went radio silent for the better part of four years.

Her debut full-length, HYPNOS, arrives as a mature reintroduction, a love-stained, moody transport that flies through Lenae’s world with a featherlight cadence. Lenae surveys the recent history of soul, alternative R&B, and even Afrobeats with precision. But most importantly, her debut showcases her ascendant vocal prowess as she moves across her wide range with ease. Lenae’s transcendental poise establishes her as a resonant voice in R&B.

The immediate appeal of HYPNOS is just how tantalizing Lenae’s arrangements are amid familiar soundscapes. On previous songs like “Sticky” or “Free Room,” Lenae tapped into her higher register, but here Lenae’s soprano has become a gravitational force. On the Kaytranada-produced “Xtasy,” Lenae’s sultry and blithe singing washes over the beat like water beading off a car. “Lullabye,” a kiss-off to a former lover, moves through melismatic harmonies like clockwork. “I hope she keeps you warm at night/This is our lullabye,” she croons, but you know she’s going to be OK just by her composure.

For someone already lauded for her singing, Lenae’s vocal technique on HYPNOS is the work of a perfectionist. Her sound has blossomed into a potpourri of the R&B female icons of the last three decades, but especially of the ’90s and early ’00s. The most obvious comparison here is Aaliyah, but 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 Destiny’s Child’s lullabying melodies. “Venom,” a seething funkadelic synth-led track, feels caught between something off OutKast’s Stankonia and Brandy’s “What About Us?”. “Why do you play me for a fool?” Lenae asks, before descending into harmonies that unravel like those on Solange’s “Rise.” On “Cameo,” Lenae brings back Lacy and frequent collaborator Luke Titus for a funky opener that recalls the synth bass sound of Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon.” The influences are never distracting so much as they are twinkling, fun, and carefully blended.

Sounding like someone else is by no means the limit to Lenae’s creative yield; she is as self-assured as she is exploratory. Rather than replicating a nostalgia that’s become commonplace, she has earnestly studied these forebears and applied their techniques to her own brand of soft and intense music. “Light Me Up,” the album’s sexy, slow-burning centerpiece, creates a moodboard of R&B references, and digs deep into the excitement of sexual exploration: “Come inside/Show me you’re the leader/Switchin’ sides/Make me a believer,” she begs. Lenae’s weightless falsetto and stimulated writing make it a female contemporary to D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel).”

The way Lenae seems to examine and deliberate her decisions in real time makes her a magnetic narrator. On “M.I.A.,” she takes stock of her life and goes full escapist mode in ways that commit to her shapeshifting tendencies. Taking notes from the Afrobeats artist Amaarae, the song is slick and coolheaded, cheekily rhyming about the freedom to sneak away at a moment’s notice. On “3D,” Lenae reunites with Zero Fatigue’s Monte Booker and Smino for a wobbly groove that puts Lenae in the driver’s seat of a relationship moving too fast. “I’m asking you to keep it light/Things are better movin’ slow,” she cautions, raising her pitch with each word of warning. In her earlier work with Booker and Smino, Lenae sounded like a gorgeous vocalist, but as HYPNOS emphasizes, she can be all of those things and the star of her own story.

While the majority of HYPNOS’ themes are commonplace to early twentysomething experience—heartbreak, growing apart, trifling men, finding your footing—Lenae makes them feel easily digestible and less existential. On “Skin Tight,” she ponders the kinetic energy of a past relationship with grace and respect beyond her years. The scornful acoustic number “Mercury,” with “Deep End” singer Fousheé, initially comes off as a minor song on the album. But Lenae’s airy, level-minded approach is captivating—making this a bold and bittersweet highlight. Even as she whispers “I fucking hate you/Don’t ever speak my name” it never sounds all that painful, more like pity in the face of disgust.

Even when heartache leaves her distraught, Lenae is laser-focused on reaching for spiritual affirmation and aggrandizement. The album ends on the feather touch of heartfelt closer “Wish,” which brings together Lenae’s dizzying expression and limitless execution as a vocalist. “Every night you close your eyes, make a little wish,” Lenae sings, tip-toeing down the words. It could lift you out of the deepest hole. Even as she touches on trends and familiar themes, it’s Lenae’s delivery, confidence, and alluring presence that makes HYPNOS stand apart. As she considers her anxieties, hopes, and doubts, she reveres the musical icons before her in ways that show just how ready she is for her own turn.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Ravyn Lenae - HYPNOS Music Album Reviews Ravyn Lenae - HYPNOS Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on June 01, 2022 Rating: 5


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