Say it after me: S-O-F-T…
Edward Okulicz: So light and sweet, I half expect to find out it’s made entirely of egg whites and sugar. But meringues are one of the fastest ways to my heart, so how am I to resist Cassie’s effortless warmth? Her vocals sparkle like any 80s popette’s, the beeps are 90s, the beats are the erotically-charged minimalism of the 00s (“Move Ya Body,” girl!) and the effect is timeless. Uplifting, too.
John Seroff: The “King of Hearts” question: does a simple, warm-from-the-oven sugar cookie taste that much better when it’s made lovingly by hand than when it’s stamped out cookie cutter style from a store-bought sheet? The apparent answer: not necessarily.
Brad Shoup: It took me actual years to come to terms with “Me & U,” but this song connected instantly, so Lord knows how everyone else is gonna feel. I think it’s massive. It flips the script of the former’s blankness into straight-up chill, especially on a chorus so great J2 can’t resist revisiting and embellishing it. Cassie’s vocal isn’t echoed so much as pooled, barrels of liquid added to the rainfall of staccato synth, handclaps and that skipping, skittery beat. I was going to say it’s wonderful that she’s adapted to the landscape, but it’s about as likely that her initial approach was anticipatory.
Anthony Easton: The handclap-sounding percussive rhythm and her slack vocals, sad and a little buried, sounds like she wants to believe what she is singing but she realises that seduction and charm are kind of empty. How it phases out into electronic noise, and how she speak-sings: it’s unsettled as a text, whether she’s trying to convince ourselves, him, herself — or is she saying, “Fuck you”? Is it a compliment or an insult? The ambiguity of this and the continual repetitiveness reminds of perversely of Gertrude Stein at her most besotted and gnomic.
Alex Ostroff: Cassie has spent the six years since her impressive debut disappearing through the cracks between labels, while her voice has been harnessed as a ghost in the machine by a universe of electronic and bass producers. It’s not entirely surprising, then, that her reemergence cuts out the middleman and sets her adrift in the centre of the dancefloor. The sweetness and slightness of her voice remain, but the sass, seduction and swing of earlier R&B-leaning leaks have vanished. It’s nice to have proof that Cassie’s icy charisma persists even when submerged beneath a sea of production, but there’s not enough to connect with here; her personality and humour have evaporated, leaving the essence of yearning.
Iain Mew: So it’s like angsty alt-disco, except that there’s barely any angst, whatever the half second of dubstep or the synth avalanche at the end would like to suggest. It’s immaculately constructed and well sung enough to work as ear candy, but it does still feel like something’s missing.
Zach Lyon: I guess I didn’t have a radio in 2006 because this is somehow the first solo track I’ve ever heard from Cassie, though I do know enough about her to now be scared of what her cult would do to me for admitting to that. I’m surprised that what I had imagined to be a stand-out personality is playing backup to the beat, as if this should really be something like David Guetta/Calvin Harris/[insert MUCH better producer] ft. Cassie. She stands out hardly more than she did in “Addiction.” It is a wonderful beat, but I don’t think I’ll be listening to it again; if I went to clubs, maybe my reaction would be different, but I can’t think of another context where it would be useful. It doesn’t move me.
Jonathan Bogart: In 2006, I wasn’t paying attention to Cassie, but I was head over heels in love with Europop pixies like Annie and Robyn, with their lush, glittering synths and sweet, lovelorn melodies. I would eventually learn to love Cassie in time for the spare, chromed “Me & U” to become one of my favorite songs of the oughts, but what I wasn’t prepared for was that the two loves would dovetail. “King of Hearts” isn’t as futuristically clean and precise as “Me & U,” but the sighing vocals and wistful throb of it is so straight out of the Swedish indie-electro playbook that it might as well have “Heartbeat” in the title.
Michaela Drapes: Lightweight, but hardly flimsy; the dreamworld synth burble and whispered lyrics give this an otherworldly feel, but there’s a demanding physicality, too. You can dance for hours at this bpm, can’t you?
Alfred Soto: Yet another one-named female R&B singer makes up for the perfidy of record companies. With a subtle, insinuating beat and a robopop vocal that can coax warmth from synth pads and lust from pedestrian sequencers, Cassie proves why she should persuade Amerie and Ciara to unionize.