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New R&B Adds: dvsn, Gallant, Janet Jackson

dvsn - Sept. 5thdvsn is a R&B duo composed of Daniel Daley and produce Nineteen85. Recently signed to OVO, dvsn’s debut album Sept. 5th is reminiscent of the R&B from the 90s, but with a clear OVO-influence similar to the Majid Jordan’s debut album. Where that album often drowned in itself self-contained darkness, dvsn’s tracks often have an underlying upbeat that adds a layer of complexity to the music that Majid Jordan lack. dvsn’s style is encapsulated on the standout track “Too Deep” on which Daley voice is juxtaposed with a unidentified female vocal that recalls Inoj or Brownstone filtered through contemporary alt-R&B. Overall, Sept. 5th is the best album by an OVO affiliate that is not Drake or PARTYNEXTDOOR and is worth a listen. KEN

RIYL: Majid Jordan, Bryson Tiller, Drake, The Weeknd (mixtape-era)

Recommended Tracks: “Too Deep”(2), “Sept. 5th”(6), “Hallucinations” (7), “Another One” (8)

Gallant - Ology: Gallant’s debut album, Ology, begins with a red herring with “First” building into a dark climax before breaking into the light “Talking To Myself”. This kind of play feels inherent to Gallant’s musical style, with his delivery always feeling flexible, even in Ology’s heavier moments. An example of this would be on “Counting” where Gallant is being open about his struggles, but still gives off optimism, even if lyrically the track is dark. Over the course of Ology, Gallant tries on a variety of styles ranging from straight pop to the smooth R&B of the Groove Theory-sampling “Miyazaki”. Ology is a great first album from an artist who is still trying to figure out exactly what he wants to his place in music to be. KEN

RIYL: Luke James, Kehlani, Wet, Justin Bieber

Recommended Tracks: “Talking To Myself” (2), “Weight in Gold”(7), “Miyazaki” (9), “Counting” (10), “Episode” (8)

Janet Jackson - Velvet RopeAs the first classic add to the R&B wall, Janet Jackson’s Velvet Rope seemed appropriate due to its huge influence on many major R&B and pop artists since its release in 1997. Coming off of her second self-titled album Janet, Jackson had taken on persona in her music, one that channeled her aggression not only for social justice, but also claiming of her body is a very public way. Janet was the first step in that direction, while The Velvet Rope serves as her most radical statement to date. On the album’s titular track Jackson reaches out her hand to the audience stating “if you have a special need/to feel that we belong/come with me inside/inside my velvet rope”. This album is not just about Jackson’s regaining her power, but about empowering all people that feel that they do not belong in society, all over 22 tracks (featuring way too many interludes) produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis as well as Jackson herself.  On “What About” Jackson speaks out against abuse, but then follows up by allowing herself to be sensitive on “I Get Lonely” three tracks later. “Together Again” takes the death of a loved one and turns it into a danceable track celebrating life, rather than wallowing in sadness. At its core, Velvet Rope is about pleasure and power, with Janet openly exploring her sexuality on “My Need”, “Go Deep”, “Free Xone”, even flirting with bisexuality and polyamory on “Tonight’s The Night”. Sonically, Velvet Rope utilizes samples as well as foreshadowing the genre-blending of contemporary R&B as shown on the Q-Tip assisted “Got ‘Til It’s Gone” featuring a Joni Mitchell sample from “Big Yellow Taxi”. Velvet Ropeprovided the context for much of the sexual empowerment we see in contemporary female, especially black female, artists that alone makes this a classic album, but nearly two decades later the production and lyrical content feel just as timely. KEN

RIYL: Rihanna, Beyonce, Solange, Kelela

Recommended Tracks: All, but especially “I Get Lonely” (18), “What About” (15), “Together Again” (11), and “Tonight’s The Night” (17)