Final Rating: 8/10
Last time we heard Indie sensation Yuna; she was singing through every indie radio station as well as performing on Conan for her well received songs “Rescue” and “I Wanna Go” off her victorious third studio album Nocturnal (2013) which peaked 27 on Billboard Charts. Paving her way into becoming an international artist, this beloved Malaysian singer recently released her long awaited album, Chapters (2016). Made public through Verve Records which is a small sub-company of Universal Music Group, a three year wait for an international record was incredibly brutal but much needed for this re-vamped artist. This sentimental album takes listeners into a journey of self discovery, love and the not- so-fun ride to heart ache and heart break. Compared to her previous record, Nocturnal, Yuna has stripped away from her well known indie-alternative sound and signed off to a more ambient, jazzy, old-school mix with new school R&B sound while keeping her signature known layering vocal harmonies in place. The new album features tracks that have been heavily inspired by late 90s and early 00’s R&B singers, including well known R&B sensation, Usher. Gaining critical acclaim in her home country, Malaysia, it was no surprise for this talented soul to take America by storm. Yuna has worked with prominent names in the music industry such as Pharrell Williams, who produce her first international and self titled album Yuna (2012). It is sure enough that Chapters (2016) will achieve success in the next couple of months.
Now the album itself has a coming of age vibe. You discover what it is like to be young again and naïve. From the opening track, “Mannequin” the young musician yearns to seek approval and self worth through a potential lover. What I find interesting about this song is not only can the song be interpreted through a romantic lens but also through a platonic lens which give fans that aren’t in romantic relationships to be able to still connect with the song. The song itself is very ambient and simple. Fans will enjoy the catchy chorus as well as the high soprano layered vocals which is the highlights of song.
The album was labeled “Dream Pop” for a reason as Lanes the second track, as well as the newest single off the album, puts those who were waiting for a 80s dream pop era to come back into style a sense of hope. With just the simple work of synthesizers and piano as well as electronic drums, the song mixes the smell of colorful scrunchies and bright neon lights. Lyrically, this song is juxtaposition to the first track as she reflects on her true feelings towards her lover.
As the tracks transition into the next, the songs become more self reflective and unapologetic as the singer begins to look back into her past. Songs such as “Used to Love You” featuring Jhene Aiko, showcase the battles of letting go and remembering the love you once had. The pair sing and accompany each other so well that the song has become a fan favorite. Similarly in “Best of Me” she reminds her fans about the struggles of life and how there is a silver lining to every storm. This positive song has a familiar sound to it which is, long time inspiration to Yuna, Frank Ocean-esque vibe to it.
Notably, one of the earlier singles of the, “Crush” features Usher, a long time inspiration to Yuna. The song has a very calm and chill vibe to it as well as a catchy hook, “I’ll be coming Down/Down/Down.” You will be humming this chorus on your way to work, it will become a thing.
From heartbreak to growth, “Places to Go” epitomizes ones dire need to escape adventure off to other cities. Produced with DJ Permire, who knew scratches and sampled voices would pair so well with the light calming voice Yuna possesses? The song has become an anthem to me and other fans of the record not only because of the optimistic lyrics but also for its catchy and nogalistic feeling of old school R&B. Exclaiming on the fact that she gets so caught up with her work and life that she never has time for herself, she speaks about wanting to travel, move away, explore the world as well as find her in the process; a feeling that many in their late teens and early 20s have contemplated.
The album was worth the wait. Songs that were not mentioned but worth the listen off the album were “Best Love”, “Your Love” and a signature ballad “All I Do”. It is highly advised to listen to the entire record with a tub of ice cream on a good lazy Sunday afternoon. Yuna is currently ready to kick off her tour in Europe in early September; catch her on her first date in Berlin, Germany on Sept. 13!