When everyone is doing the same thing how do you set yourself apart? Styles and vibes are not just blanket terms nowadays. Lanes are very important things to mind these days especially when it comes to contemporary R&B’s multiple-sub-genre expanse. Most voices of the modern electronic experimental R&B banner are either high-pitched and trancey or breathy and raspy. Vocal differences may be sparse, but with enough electronic keyboard embellishments a voices have been known to move on either side of the texture spectrum multiple times throughout songs. As they should. This is “Modern R&B” we’re speaking of.
With the myriad of vocal coatings recording artists use in music today, crooner, Daniel Caesar’s, bold choice to use a majority of clean vocals and instrumentation on his debut album Freudian is very refreshing. Caesar recreates the tonal textures in line with other popular soulful electronic R&B artists such as Alina Baraz, and H.E.R., but with more focus on long solo vocal lines. Layered harmonies are apparent, especially to the extent of the honey coated effect that we’ve come to expect from the electro-love today but Caesar takes a dive into the deep ends with less covering than most. As which would be expected of a debut release with such a notoriety inspiring reference as to a psychological innovator with such as Sigmund Freud. Caesar pours a big glass for himself. Let’s see if he’s a fish or a figure.
The album’s first track and first single “Get You” features new school enchantress Kali Uchis. “Get You” showcases Caesars use of long vocal lines as Caesar takes his time questioning the quintessentially romantic “who would have thought I’d get you?”. For a youthful artist Caesar definitely has some Nat “King” Cole-esque uses of smooth baritone. It is apparent that it takes a bit of bravery to put that much of a gamble on one’s voice like that that and Caesar doesn’t hesitate to let it ride smooth as smoke. The smoke is still billowing in the harmony of the the night on heartfelt love sentiments in songs like “Neu Roses (Transgressors Song)” and the H.E.R. assisted “Best Part”. “Neu Roses” opens with an apologetic layered lullaby with blended harmonies reminiscent to Boyz II Men 90s R&B smooth and then falls into a more upbeat groove with light funk syncopation. “Best Part” delivers some of the classic romance vibes that has been missing from a lot of contemporary radio waves as the duo sings on the chorus “Where you go I’ll follow no matter how far. If life is a movie, Oh you’re the best part”. Tell the rom-com writers to take the album to the bank and cash it!
Reminiscent in its romance Caesar is also exposes spiritual reverential connections to love in his lyrical but also in tone. Freudian balances zen-like meditative moments with tensity that will also have you caught between the church house and the jazz hall all in one breath. He’s definitely taking some common female voices in the R&B genre and creating some refreshing collaborative vibes and experiences. May we all grow up to be as tender as Caesar and he keep on shining his unique flavor in through our speakers.