Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Dej Loaf ft. Leon Bridges – Liberated

Our Feel Good Tuesday ends with us feeling… okay, I guess…


Julian Axelrod: On paper, this sounds like a nightmare. Dej Loaf (a rapper who rarely sounds animated even on her best songs) and Leon Bridges (a singer who’s never afraid to veer into schmaltz or cheese, no matter how beautifully executed) isn’t a pairing anyone’s been clamoring for, and recent unity anthems have had a spotty track record despite the current climate. So I’m relieved this isn’t nearly as cringeworthy as it could have been! The link between Loaf and Leon is restraint, and luckily they keep “Liberated” understated. The steel drums provide uplift without getting too flashy, and the vibe is so amiable it feels like a jellyfish floating past a street corner. Sure, the lyrics are about as deep as your woke cousin’s Facebook status, but they’re earnest and heartfelt in the same way. And you could have Leon Bridges sing the phonebook and it’d probably still make me cry a lil bit.

Tim de Reuse: Good intentions, but altogether awkward execution. It’s in the broad strokes, like the clumsy pentatonic melody that rambles underneath it all, and in a few baffling specifics, like the unnaturally long pause after the chant of “People gettin’ liberated!” that never fails to sound like both singers simultaneously forgetting their lines. Maybe there’s a good song somewhere in this corny premise, but it needed some more time in the oven.

Nortey Dowuona: As Dej Loaf drifts over the stock-still shimmers of synths and lilting tin pan bass and snapping, slight drums, she affirms and loves, supported by Leon’s powerful howl.

Jonathan Bradley: The reverberating mid-tones of the steel drums sounds like waking up, though in a more literal way than you might expect from a song with a chorus that urges “people get liberated!” Dej Loaf is more familiar as a rapper than a singer, but her lilt melts nicely over the arrangement’s slow yawn. It’s a welcome intimacy, and the song is best when the lyric matches; the shout-out to introverts, for instance, feels too much like #shareable #content — until it’s reworked as a more lived hope for “real love, less friends.” And while Dej and Bridges do lean too much on generalities, “so many things in this world I don’t understand” and “I won’t judge who you love or your brown skin” are paired sentiments that assert the strength of both acceptance and uncertainty, constructing the two as a separate but resolvable duality.

Stephen Eisermann: Dej Loaf’s flow is very laid back and conversational, which is a strength in songs like this that find the rapper giving a sort of pep talk to the oppressed. Leon Bridges provides a lot of assistance with a pretty powerful chorus that makes you want to raise your hands and nod your head with him, but in this moment it all feels pretty hollow. No fault to the song, of course, but cynicism tends to bleed into how you interpret art and it’s making this great track and making it seem… pretty superficial.

Alfred Soto: Noble sentiments movingly expressed, with arrangement that will convert no one. Bad taste is supposed to do that.

Reader average: [6] (1 vote)

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