Daniel Caesar – NEVER ENOUGH

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Now with a number one hit under his belt after linking up with fellow Canadian Justin Bieber, the man who made massive waves in the alt-R&B space with his 2017 debut. Freudian and followed it up with the mixed reaction concept album CASE STUDY 01 returns with his third studio album. Unsurprisingly, it mostly falls somewhere in the middle between the two, as Caesar delivers confident, modern, and Spotify playlist-ready R&B tunes. Some are lifted quite a bit by Caesar’s smooth vocals, while others are toppled by abrupt endings and strange lyrical choices. If you’re a huge Caesar fan or alternative space R&B is your most listened to genre, chances are there’s almost nothing on IT’S NEVER ENOUGH that you find fault with it. For everyone else, it’s mostly better-than-average background music.

The opening track, “Ocho Rios,” only takes a couple of seconds to demonstrate one of the main reasons Caesar has come this far, hitting listeners with some stellar falsetto notes. It’s even more impressive when Caesar advances to the second verse and drops to the bottom of his register, his midrange backing him up and making it sound like he’s duetting with an alternate version of himself, it seems like there are three different people in the room. track sometimes. One of them, however, seems like he doesn’t really want to be there, and unfortunately he’s the one doing the chorus. With a plodding, repetitive melody, it also leads to the feeling that the track ends before it actually begins, something that builds up to the next track, “Valentina”. Apparently singing over a beat his brother produced on a whim gives Caesar a captivating new sound with a few more old-school R&B techniques in the mix, to which he responds with some of his best harmonies on the project, but his cut is even quicker in what could have been a true standout. Mustafa features on the track “Toronto 2014,” and you can tell why Caesar likes him: They both fit into this heady, galactic-brained lyrical space they deliver with a somewhat theatrical vocal flair. Caesar must have let Mustafa go down that lane on this track with some poetic lyrics on the front end, rather than reverting to tired lines about being “stuck in the womb” and an oddly plaintive delivery.

If there’s one thing you can say about this project, it’s that Daniel Caesar picked some very strong singles. They all appear next to each other, starting with “Let Me Go”. Backed by church organ chords and marching band-style rolling percussion, it’s just a perfectly structured R&B track. Caesar’s performance is incredibly passionate, leaping effortlessly into his falsetto but equally able to hit the same notes when the emotion calls for it as he expresses his exhaustion in the final hours of a relationship. The subsequent “Do you like me?” finds it on the other side of the coin, a funkier track that embodies the nerves and anxiety when diving into something new and exciting, always overthinking and doubting if it’s the real deal, especially, as he puts it, when he’s experienced so much anguish. in the past. It’s another nice sound change here before most of the back-end remains stagnant. “Always”, however, is the jewel in the crown here. It’s Caesar’s best vocal performance on the project, as he sings about a love that will never really die, even as he fades away, his voice growing stronger through the little breaks and wobbles that give it so much humanity. The track sounds like it’s straight out of the ’90s, with muted synth piano, instrumental stabs, and slow drum fills. “Cool” is another slow track, but it’s much sleepier: over raw piano, Caesar attacks the track with some of his more percussive tones—sometimes not an ideal combination.

The back half is a mix of tracks that mostly just meander without getting your attention, like “Pain Is Inevitable,” where Caesar drops some overused Instagram captions and acts like they’re groundbreaking ideas, or ” Disillusioned”, a track that sonically reflects his attitude of looking at the world with a sigh as you get older, looking for a spark, and some more unpredictable innovative ideas. “Buyer’s Remorse” sees Caesar putting on some of his most theatrical deliveries on this one as he sings about regretting making a full commitment, but the almost a cappella chorus where he drops some muffled aggressive rap lines behind a sparkling falsetto stands out as an interesting idea, even if it doesn’t fully connect. Omar Apollo sounds fantastic in the unfortunate couple of seconds that Caesar gives him at the end of the track. His “Shot My Baby” finds him using those theatrical instincts to switch into full narrator mode in what must be a holdover from a “country-bluegrass” inspired project he was once teasing. Featuring some of his most moving moments over a random beat and a big bass riff, Caesar offers up some descriptive lyrics about walking onto the scene of an affair and responding violently. Justine Skye’s backing vocals really tie it all together.

Of course, when you invite Ty Dolla $ign on your album, you have to get a little X-rated, and that’s exactly what happens on the song “Homiesexual,” which is even more fun because the melodies evoke something like a Track Boyz II Men. Ty$ always brings an interesting angle to a track, dropping a rather funny reference to Verzuz battles along the way. “Vince Van Gogh,” however, doesn’t seem as strong as a final moment. With interludes of low-key spoken words talking about being on a psychedelic high, the track’s disjointed nature definitely reflects that, as Caesar is derisively compared to Charles Manson for seemingly no narrative reason. It’s even stranger that he juxtaposes it with a faith-based track, “Superpower.” After some more typical César emotions about finding a girl God really got over himself with, he wraps things up by tapping into his Jamaican roots on “Unstoppable,” jamming with Chronixx and throwing on some patois as he talks about feeling invincible with his partner.

Caesar’s career looks a bit like the world he describes on “Disillusioned” right now: after an album that was so influential that the genre it belongs to essentially shaped itself in a way that makes its own music sound derivative, he needs some kind of innovative new spark to make use of all the natural talent he possesses. He is the Lil Yachty of alternative R&B. For now, there are still a couple of great songs here.

Favorite Tracks: Always, Let Me Go, I Shot My Baby, Do You Like Me?

Least Favorite Song: Vince Van Gogh

Score: 6/10

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