Thursday, February 8th, 2024

Jungeli ft. Imen Es, Alonzo, Abou Debeing & Lossa – Petit Génie

Our third song today, and our first with no relation to murder…

Jungeli ft. Imen Es, Alonzo, Abou Debeing & Lossa - Petit Génie

Nortey Dowuona: “C’est pas avec amour qu’on achète vêtements.” It’s a very cutting lyric once I found a translation of it (“It’s not with love that we buy clothes”), and it’s true. Jungeli, as a singer and as a presence (in the video at least), is a sweet, light-hearted kid who radiates joy in any room he enters. His voice is light and silken, and threads through the song even when he’s not leading a verse. But it doesn’t have gravity or weight, so everything he sings floats, including a Lingala verse close to the end of the track. His interplay with Abou Debeing, who also has a light tenor with a bit of bass, allows for a comfortable hand-off between the two. The lilting guitar melody that Jungeli mimics is light as well: it sidewinds through the drum pattern built by DJ Wills, who’s produced for the likes of MHD, Bramsito, and Alrima. Imen Es brings a weightier heft to the chorus when she sings it. Her voice is the highest on the track but feels substantial and firm, a comfortable interpretation of the notes placed in the front of the mix. Lossa’s deeper tenor can’t do the same, simply dragging as the echoes placed below him fill the track to an uncomfortable and unengaging degree. (Imen Es’s return is a blessing.) Alonzo has the deepest voice, the sharpest and most distinct flow, but it’s such a short, sharp shock that Jungeli’s looping verse lulls you back out of the abrupt switch in intensity. “Petit Génie” is so short that you think there’s nothing more there for you, it won’t put a career on Jungeli’s back. But you listen again. And again. And once more. It’s still at #1 — he deserves it. 

Mark Sinker: Such voices. Everyone in the room seems to be making a gently scuffed, breathily perfect pop noise, high or low — but honestly I wonder if Imen Es hasn’t the most beautiful delivery I’ve ever heard, with a kind of folded shiver in it. I hurried off to hear what else she’s recorded — an LP last year called Train de vie – but I came back again, because I think this company is bringing out the best in her. 

Joshua Minsoo Kim: That first warbled vocal sounds like something you’d hear in a Burial track. And really, this is a song about the pleasure of hearing vocals. Each new singer enters the track to revitalize. Best of all is Imen Es; she sounds like water, so pure and clear.

Kat Stevens: It always amazes me when people release summer jams in winter. I can imagine Jungeli is hoping to get this track established well before the Paris Olympics to ensure some tasty beach volleyball montage royalties, but unfortunately it’s way too late for a rhythmic gymnastics routine (that shiz needs at least a year of prep). The highlight is Imen Es piercing through the breezy beats like a territorial blackbird — a perfect accompaniment for a fluttering ribbon. Maybe LA 2028?

Kayla Beardslee: “Petit Génie” mixes the frantic whistles and percussion stutters of gqom with sunny guitar and relaxed vocals that feel much more Afrobeats — but it’s all in French, with features from various hip-hop artists (and R&B singer Imen Es, who absolutely eats the men up). The result is pleasant, though the mix of influences feels less like stitching together a tapestry and more like throwing it all in a blender.

Katherine St. Asaph: Groove is OK, but every vocalist here is about 66% as good as they needed to be.

Taylor Alatorre: Am I wrong for thinking that this sounds like a Francophone nightcore remix of “Am I Wrong“? And am I wrong for thinking Nico & Vinz deserve a better one?

Jessica Doyle: If I squint I can see something interesting in the tension between the stated text, pointedly superficial and unsentimental, and the musical atmosphere of friends hanging out and taking turns. I can see why this got popular: it provides a nice backdrop for an outdoor party. But I’m alone right now, so:

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: I really do love posse cuts. “Petit Génie” serves as a helpful reminder of their benefits – take a collection of middling hooks and verses, staple them together over a pretty but anonymous beat, and achieve something much greater than the sum of its parts.

Thomas Inskeep: A lovely, breezy blend of Afrobeats, hip-hop and R&B, the epitome of ear candy.

Ian Mathers: My French is nowhere near fluent (or remembered; it’s been years) enough to keep up with all the different speakers and accents here, but there’s a lightness of touch and group-level joy that comes through here, whatever the text actually is. Posse cuts like this can suffer from a lack of consistent quality on the one hand (cf. how annoying I found ArrDee on “Body (Remix)“) and not having distinctive enough personalities on the other, but “Petit Génie” doesn’t break a sweat threading that particular needle.

Isabel Cole: Feels bigger than it is, in a good way — a sense of richness, lushness even, achieved not through maximalism but through the careful deployment of each component part. I was surprised when I looked at the length by how short it was, also in a good way, as if the song had created such a complete sonic world that time ran differently there. I like how each vocalist brings a slightly different emotional shading, even when they’re singing the same melody.

Leah Isobel: Damn, life is pain.

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