Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

Thandi Phoenix & Sigma – Say It

We say: yes!


Tobi Tella: Pop music’s recent house revival makes me very happy, and this is an absolute belter on the level of the classic ’90s dance divas. As the weather warms and summer approaches, it feels like the bangers are finally coming out. The lyrics are nondescript, but who cares?

Alfred Soto: Pop critics must remain ever watchful of the influence of nostalgia. I’ve had twenty-five years to estimate the worth of nineties pop house. By sticking the breakbeat in unexpected spots and deploying Thandi Phoenix’s chalky tone, “Say It” avoids pastiche. And you can dance to it.

Josh Love: Maybe I have a soft spot for blatant late ’80s/early ’90s house nostalgia because it still scans as cheesy and not very hip, at least in the U.S. Still, give me the euphoria of “Say It” over some some more superficially chic synthpop revival any day of the week. “Say It” pulls no punches either, liberally doling out not only the brassy vox and piano stabs of classic house but even making the patented connection between pulpit (“confess to me”) and dancefloor.

Katherine St Asaph: There are only so many lyrics and so many ways to permute them, especially in pop-house where the set’s much smaller. But this inevitably reminds me of “Sayit” and “Confess to Me,” both of which have tension this doesn’t. What a waste of a vocalist actually getting the lead credit.

Edward Okulicz: Thandi Phoenix’s voice is far more Jessie Ware than Martha Wash, but her melody is just as big as the Black Box hits “Say It” evokes. And she was four years from being born when “I Don’t Know Anybody Else” was released. It’s a big communal dance banger that doesn’t compromise on sensuality and the urgency of the intimate; that takes a great voice and a great song to work.

Ian Mathers: Not only am I a sucker for any version of the Amen break, not only will I always mention that when I’m covering a song that I notice has any version of that break, but if you pair that with housey piano chords and a singer who can belt when required, you would have to fuck up some part of the result in truly grotesque fashion for it not to get a very good result from me. Sometimes you want something you’ve never heard before, sometimes you just want the musical equivalent of a Ferrero Rocher (or insert your own version of a sweet that is always the same, you can consume far too many of in one sitting, and you never seem to get tired of).

Joshua Minsoo Kim: The subtle breakbeat elements are an effective tease, but “Say It” is really just about Thandi Phoenix’s delivery of the chorus. The emotional nature of the lyrics are sensed in the strength of her performance, but the mixing prevents her from truly erupting. There’s a slightly underwhelming disconnect between the instrumentation and her vocals — the wobbles and strings try to communicate what she’s feeling, but all of the song’s elements never feel completely harmonious. Anonymity in piano house is fine, but this has a coldness to it that leaves much to be desired.

Stephen Eisermann: Dance has always been one of my favorite languages. Dancing with friends was a way for me to share my love and appreciation, dancing with someone at the tail end of a relationship easily relays that it’s over because it’s hard to hide facial expressions during dance, and dancing with a potential love partner, like in this song, easily communicates interest via longing gazes and body contact. This feels especially true when dancing to EDM and sounds like this are why: Sigma provide Thandi with a pretty standard EDM/club beat production, but her warm vocals wrap around the lyrics of longing and provide enough feeling that it’s hard to not picture yourself dancing with someone you’re infatuated with. You turn away, partially because the move calls for it and partially to be provocative, and you mouth the words to this song, not just because it’s pretty damn good, but also because you mean every word Thandi sings.

Iris Xie: Ahhhh, my inner 9-year-old, confused by how decades end and trends change, and was ready to grow up in the ’90s aesthetic before being rudely interrupted by time, is now super happy to hear this. The little production flourishes in the back give such a feeling of suspense and timing, like the little kick drum melody from 0:19 to 0:21 is so detailed and reminds me of how important of a songwriting tool for having every little element communicate and provide flourishes to the lyrics and delivery of the vocalist. Also, Thandi Phoenix is commanding as she asks to “slow down” and builds up into a level of suspense, which springs like an elastic band into the anthemic and full-hearted chorus. The post-chorus expands on the kick drum melody and goes into a strobing synth that balances it out with the bassline and a sparkle sound that continues amplifying the atmosphere, resulting in a song that does not even have to try hard to bring people out onto the dance floor. When I think of dance music, this is what sticks in my mind as a template, and it is such a pleasant surprise to hear this.

Jibril Yassin: When in doubt, evoke 1991. Sigma pivoting away from their DnB sound yields powerful dividends and Thandi Phoenix proves a capable vocalist. It makes for a package that succeeds in hitting all the right notes — a bright, emotional slab of piano-house that could have been much, much worse.

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