Thursday, December 5th, 2019

Leyla Blue – Silence

Next up, some less nihilist Blues…


Natasha Genet Avery: Leyla Blue captures the many discomforts of unrequited lust with just a few precise images: zipping yourself into “jeans too tight,” traveling in the “drizzling rain” for a minute-long interaction that your crush will likely not even register, trying to quell your anxiety in the bathroom with lip gloss and a motivational speech in the mirror. “Silence” is a happy marriage of form and function, the swelling synths are an uneasy, blaring heartbeat, and the ascending melody of the bridge mirrors her mounting distress before bubbling over to the nervous, sharp exhales of the chorus. I’ve been there, and I feel you, girl.

Kylo Nocom: “Silence” hits on the same notes of relatability as Alessia Cara’s “Here” — compare “fake friends” to “the girl who’s always gossiping about her friends,” or “a song I hate” to “this music I don’t listen to” — but Leyla excises the condescension in favor of deeper introspection. Her internal monologue traps itself in a loop of aversion and infatuation, begging to be heard yet never spoken. But the clash between the “1950” beat and Leyla’s Maggie Rogers-esque belting sullies the message. Throughout the song she’s alternately overcrowded by production or vocally overworked, an effect akin to screaming into a pillow: something that ought to be an act of release, instead dampened by fluff.

Kayla Beardslee: “Silence” feels both unignorably loud and helplessly restrained. The production swoops and spins, chorus playing in enjoyable ways with, well, silence, and Blue switches effortlessly between crying out and crooning. The lyrics deserve attention too: I can overlook the awkward stretching of breathe into “braaathe” for vivid lines like “half drunk in the drizzling rain” (“drizzling” is such a luscious adjective) and “remix plays on cheap speakers / Of a song I hate,” a line tailor-made for grumpy music critics. For a debut single, this is impressively self-assured.

Alfred Soto: The arrangement hairpins with the fuck-this abandon of a newbie hoping this isn’t her only chance to impress, and, impressively, Leyla Blue’s swoops and shouts are up to them. But the arrangement is also so of-the-moment that I fear the record company people will turn her into another Billie Eilish clone.

FAMILY/FRIEND/FACULTY/FLAK: What a great voice she has!
PRODUCER(S)(???) POM POM: [bubbles is silent, and somehow even more silent during the pitch-shifting.]
FAMILY/FRIEND: Has she ever thought about trying out for American I
FACULTY/FLAK: We don’t do that anymore.
FAMILY/FRIEND/FACULTY/FLAK: Isn’t she like really young, 19 or whatever? Like that Billie Eilish kid.
[A FLAK, upon hearing coveted mention of the onetime No. 1 artist in America, grabs their phone and immediately begins tapping out emails, during the song.]
FAMILY/FRIEND/FACULY/FLAK: So talented at that age.
FAMILY/FRIEND/FACULTY/FLAK: I love the part where she’s all, you know, you remember that part, 100% that badass bitch? So refreshingly honest.
[NON-FAMILY/FRIEND/FACULTY/FLAK opens their mouth again, but the sound is lost amid the growing mass of vibrato, smoggy and peanut-butter-thick.]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: The production tricks make “Silence” interesting, but only superficially. Its sparseness is a double-edged sword: it justifies every swelling synth and familiar vocal manipulation, but the song underneath the veneer is perceptibly thin.

Nortey Dowuona: Warming bass, flat drums, multi-tracked choirs and clipped snaps watch Leyla irritably put up with her ex’s corny nonsense.

Michael Hong: Leyla Blue plays with the drawn-out confession of a crush and the tantalizing silence spent waiting for a response, stretching both moments across an eternity. It’s yearning but cautious, obsessed with the more crushing possibility in the final line: “I don’t wanna hear you say you don’t want me too.”

Iain Mew: The cluttered arrangement and Leyla Blue’s intense commitment make me think of force-of-nature songs overwhelming by removing any space for resistance — mostly, of Natasha Bedingfield’s “These Words.” Pulling that off at a slower tempo is a hell of a challenge, though, and for every “remix plays on cheap speakers of a song I hate/teardrops in the bathroom” brilliantly amping up pathos, there’s a crack that lets out the pressure “Silence” was building. The biggest one is the way that the chorus lands on the word “too” like it’s a stunning twist when it conveys no new information, unbalancing the whole narrative. 

Oliver Maier: “Ultralight Beam” by way of Alessia Cara, even sharing her penchant for #relatable, self-conscious detail and party-averse constitution. There are some good lyrical touches here: how Blue unmasks her own, initially cringey “badass bitch” line as bravado, the siren simile unusually applied to a boy, the jeans line being smart enough that I can forgive that “breathe” doesn’t remotely rhyme with “rain” or “wait”. The song falls apart a bit, though, in the execution. The patient, minimal instrumental is clearly meant to evoke the silence, punctured with a wink by the (nauseating) gospel delivery on the hook, but this restraint is gradually abandoned, dulling the contrast. If the negative space is the point, then it’s counterproductive to belt and flex showy vocal runs all over it. Not that “Silence” would have to be totally barren to pull off the trick credibly, but the bombast obscures its potential.

Jackie Powell: At first, “Silence” seems like a paradox. Leyla Blue’s dynamics reach far beyond forte every time that layered chorus drops. But in a behind-the-scenes video about the recording sessions, producer Kellen Pomeranz said the first draft of the cut was called “self-inflicted pain,” and the final song symbolizes Leyla’s mission of as an artist: putting her pain into a positive place, or better yet, a more productive space. In the video, she called the developing track a song with a “Lorde-‘Royals’ R&B vibe,” but the difference between “Royals” and “Silence” is that “Silence” masters the dynamism. Its brilliance is in how loud its explosions are; Little’s catchy minimalist loops and transitions are bland in comparison. Screeches, “shhushes,” the do-do-do-ooo-duhs laced underneath each hook, and the voices — including that of the actual guy in question — make “Silence” resemble a ride on your favorite roller coaster. I say “favorite” because the lyrics reflect a common conundrum: a story where fear wins but mustn’t remain victorious. Anticipating and avoiding rejection is staying on the coaster, which leads to sickening results. Then Leyla administers tough love, serving as her kicker. Silence might be a choice that’s self-inflicted, but now we know that we aren’t alone in screaming in it.

Reader average: [0] (1 vote)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

3 Responses to “Leyla Blue – Silence”

  1. “Silence” is a song about realization, coming to terms with an unrequited love after spending days, weeks, and months suppressing each feeling, each moment when the match was just about to light up. But while listening to the song, I had a few realizations of my own:
    1) That turning on vibrato while turning a diphthong that shouldn’t have existed in the first place (“Come thruu-wuh”) makes a melody as wonky as three games of zip zap zop being played within one circle
    2) That when I said I was a fan of word-painting, it didn’t include the tacky and PAINFULLY OBVIOUS (Shhhh!) examples that make the technique seem like a false profundity
    and 3) That I’m eternally grateful that this rendition of Elizabeth Gillies’ meme-ed “Seal Singing” has finally run its time under the limelight.

  2. So as a response to Austin here I will say that being compared to Elizabeth Gillies should be a compliment. I think her voice as always been overlooked. While Ariana Grande has become a global star and her range is a gift, I find that her voice can be a bit stale and predictable. Liz has always had color and a lot of tone to her vocal and I believe the same goes with Leyla Blue.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree on Gillies’ talents; in all honesty, she outshone Ariana Grande on “Give It Up” while the two actresses were on Victorious, but I was mainly referring to Gillies’ satire of today’s singers and their pronunciations/timbres found here:

Leave a Reply