Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Ray Blk – Run Run

How does the Sound of 2017 sound in 2018?


Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: South London R&B singer overcomes a generic, slightly syncopated beat and a platitude-heavy chorus with vividly diaristic verse lyrics and a commanding vocal performance that exudes compassion.

Crystal Leww: Ray BLK’s career has been a slow burn, finally releasing an album a year and a half after her BBC Sound of 2017 win and three and a half years after her first EP. I’m a fan of this approach — I find that too many artists rush projects out the door before they’ve matured as artists, which benefits no one, least of all themselves. “Run Run” is not a single that can be released by a young artist that doesn’t know who they are. It’s a tension-filled track about growing up in a culture of gun violence in Black British communities. Young artists have made music on this subject before, but rarely does it sound as good as this while conveying such a powerful message. 

Maxwell Cavaseno: While “Run Run” is at least lyrically interesting for a singer incorporating road slang from the last few years into a tale of woe, one gets the feeling that this song’s a bit too deliberately staged. Ray’s vocals are tame and dry in spite of the loaded imagery and never quite showcase her capabilities, which allows the listener to focus on the words but also renders them passionless and a bit disinterested. Furthermore, the production’s alternation between the post-dubstep bass gurgles and the sampled drum break for melodrama feels downright hokey, especially coming in on so meager a chorus.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Emotional storytelling that would be better off without the music: hollow Adult Contemporary uplift, right down to the empty-sounding mix and questionable clash between dubstep wobbles and strings. I understand the desire to set the tempo to andante, as it makes the piece feel more thoughtful, but it has the effect of stripping the piece of its intensity. Ray BLK’s narration feels strictly like narration, and I’m not placed inside the scenes she depicts. Perhaps that’s the point, as doing so would trivialize such matters, but the video doesn’t convince me that this was the goal.

Lilly Gray: I experienced this song two ways: first, as audio only, where the odd syncopation and stretch-drag of the lyrics combined with the 2D-ification of Ray Blk’s otherwise rich voice to hold me at arm’s length. The murky throb of the back beat is lightened too much by the drumkit. But I get why, as this is both homage and living document. The chorus has the most life and pulls you through, the adrenaline of escape (or pursuit) flooding the senses. The second way I heard this song was alongside the music video, which is so compelling and successful in its overwhelming bleakness that the music fades to the background. Reduced to that throb, it becomes as muffled as a heartbeat or the pounding of blood through a head wound. I hated watching the torment and then mock execution of this boy at the service of this song. 

Andy Hutchins: Calling “Run Run” a “Pumped Up Kicks” with the many brutalities of the world as the antagonists and the perspective flipped to that of the runners seems glib. But the sunshine of the island-breezy production and the darkness of Ray BLK’s lyric rarely coexist harmoniously in pop in 2018, which has largely moved on from the apocalypse pop of the late Obama years, and it’s even rarer for both to be affecting in equal measure.

Alfred Soto: The poignancy is real, poking through the glitz. 

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