Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

Simmy – Umahlalela

Not too shabby for a first appearance…


Julian Axelrod: It’s hard to talk about Simmy without talking about Sun-El Musician, the Jukebox fave who featured her on his last album and produced a good chunk of her solo material. As you’d expect, their sounds are pretty intertwined, and Simmy acquits herself perfectly within his world. This track is another Sun-El beauty, balancing a million conversant parts (a skipping xylophone, a mumbling bass, an army of sputtering shakers) into a unified, cohesive ecosystem. But Simmy gets top billing for a reason, because this is her show all the way. Her multi-tracked falsetto is the brightest color in the palette, and she divines real emotion from the depths of the groove. Most dance vocalists either dominate a track or sink into it, but Simmy stays atop the beat without getting lost in the noise. Simmy and Sun-El are both integral to the success of “Umahlalela,” and they’re equally integral to the future of pop.

Will Adams: What makes Simmy the perfect complement to Sun-El Musician’s soundscapes is the warmth she brings to deep house that usually tend toward melancholic. The lush harmonies are one thing, but her presence when up close is captivating enough to lead me through the five minutes of subtly building groove.

Alfred Soto: The loop and horns give “Umahlalela” a Friday-night-at-the-VIP-bar chillwave vibe, and it gathers intensity as it approaches its last minute. This needs no remix, no coaxing — this South African artist undersings to beguiling effect.

Nortey Dowuona: Slumming, glistering bass buoy soft, twirling drums and hovering AC synths as Simmy smoothly breaststrokes through the water, before launching into butterfly as the chorus rises, then dives deeper as the sax synths sink in and the bass starts loping instead of strolling, then evaporates when glittering synths wash down, dousing the drums and then swept away by them, drawing the bass back over the water. Finally, the sax synths sink in with the hovering synths, mixing it all into a gooey, sweet oval of groove.

Juan F. Carruyo: The multi-tracked choir at the refrain is just bliss. Very interesting use of dynamics, as the beat stays the same but it arrives to a feeling of thematic development by just adding or subtracting the voices, turning out a very quietly compelling track. 

Joshua Minsoo Kim: “Umahlalela” teems with so much life that it seems aware of its own existence. Few songs invite listeners to get so deeply lost in their grooves, fewer still make you feel that their warmth is vital nourishment.

Ramzi Awn: “Umahlalela” features the same sprawling dessert landscape as Janet Jackson’s “Together Again,” but with an intellectual warmth rarely heard in popular music. Simmy puts forth an uncanny vision. Drawing on a dozen different references and yet utterly original, the single is a study in melody and the fabric of sound at the same time. Finally, one to write home about. 

Reader average: [7.23] (13 votes)

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5 Responses to “Simmy – Umahlalela”

  1. Wow! And there I was worrying we should have been doing “Nawe” or “Ngiyesaba” instead. Very good.

  2. Spent ages trying to review this, would have given it a 9. But I kept listening to it over and over again, and I had no words at all — lost, as Joshua says, in its groove. Humming that little four-note hook towards the end, trying to replicate that consonant sound that’s a bit like the “ch” in “loch” but not exactly, and swaying to the beat in public and making people look at me weirdly. Also, it alternates nicely with Jessie Ware’s “Overtime” — relentless in the same way, but buttery-smooth.

  3. this is very good, but not transcendent like Akanamali or Ubala, so I am surprised it’s the highest score of the year so far

  4. Distracted, but would have given an 8 and then wish i had given it a 9 later on… so this seems like the right score. Very much looking forward to the album this weekend.

  5. I really like all four singles released so far and am extremely excited to hear the album tonight. I also like these songs more than the stuff on Sun-EL Musician’s album (which was still good, but these are more my thing). Also, Ubala’s album version > single version though.