Monday, September 4th, 2017

Sevyn Streeter – Before I Do

The Jukebox does nominative determinism…


Dorian Sinclair: “Before I Do” is four minutes long, but it rises and falls so effortlessly that it feels much shorter. It’s got what I intellectually recognize as some damn tricky vocal runs, but Streeter navigates them with grace and poise. I’m particularly fond of the pre-chorus — the repeated ascension and then quick fall of the melodic line gives a sense of hesitance and uncertainty that reinforces the lyrics there really well. It’s smart writing, well-performed.

Nortey Dowuona: Smooth grooving bass, twangy guitar, and thick, softly pounding drums caress Sevyn’s smooth, strong voice as she briefly considers whether the man she loves truly is all in on this relationship or just trying to use her as a jump-off. It feels both frank and yearning: hoping for the best, expecting the worst.

Katherine St Asaph: A 2010s-does-1990s R&B ballad that recreates in meticulous detail not just the period touches — the chimes and percussion scritches might be out of a museum, if such a thing existed — but a specific mood: light like a soap bubble just as it touches ground, like the last wistful moments of wanting someone after the possibility’s slipped away.

Edward Okulicz: Tasteful and nostalgic R&B ballad, and sung with a huge amount of care by Streeter, but the chorus’s vocal melody is too dreamy where the uncertainty ought to bite.

Alfred Soto: I haven’t connected with Sevyn Streeter’s first official album like I have with “Before I Do,” which pricks its nineties production (the acoustic strums, the echo on those rim shots) with Streeter’s caustic lyrics, in turn complemented by her strategic deployment of falsetto. A first-class R&B single.

Thomas Inskeep: This creatively uses a sample of Aaliyah’s cover of the Isleys’ “At Your Best,” which is especially smart as the vibe here conveys both Aaliyah at her best, and the cool of Isleys in their early ’80s bedroom ballad prime. Streeter’s voice is highlighted here, and it’s warm and supple and serves the sexy balladry of “Before I Do” like aces.

Tim de Reuse: Beautifully straightforward lines like the opening “I heard about you and your other situation/through word of mouth” and the pre-chorus’s “I don’t think I could handle it” express a grounded, painful anxiety that the rest of the arrangement muffles. Streeter’s voice is gorgeous when she reaches for poignancy, but she applies flourish generously over every single verse, and the instrumentation serves as a thick, honeyed glaze that never really opens up for long enough to let her seem vulnerable or genuinely hurt.

Maxwell Cavaseno: Yours truly has considered Sevyn Streeter’s Call Me Crazy EP possibly one of the high points of modern R&B that never comes up in common critical conversation; a series of particularly clever songs tied to production that alternates between experimental and soulful while her own graceful vocals soared. Tragically, “Before I Do” in some ways feels drearily trad-like in material, betraying her eccentricities for a tasteful Aaliyah sampling track produced by Micah Powell and The Stereotypes. Sevyn herself is still as gentle and inviting as ever, but frankly so much of the fun of her work has been watching her carve new lanes few noticed, not just prove she can master what’s been done before. Thoughts aside, it’s still smooth and sultry and everything you could want for a wistful love song.

Reader average: [6.66] (3 votes)

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