Now is not the best time to be releasing new pop-soul music. Adele The Almighty has returned and is breaking even more records left, right and centre, and that’s before her next album is even released. But there is another pop-soul artist more than worthy of your attention: Sweden’s Seinabo Sey.
You may even have heard of her already, thanks to the remix of her track Younger by a certain Norwegian DJ, Kygo. Younger, in its original form, is the opener on her debut album ‘Pretend’, providing a suitable introduction to her upbeat crossover sound as well as her rich, husky vocal that’s heavy with emotion.
If there’s one thing this singer can do, it’s apply her vocals to a whole range of styles. The title track has a dramatic, electronic pulse akin to V V Brown or Neneh Cherry; both Hard Time and Easy feature throbbing hand-clap beats reminiscent of Adele’s Rolling In The Deep and Michael Jackson’s They Don’t Really Care About Us; whilst Words is all frantic string stabs, whirling piano and hypnotic percussive beats; and Who is a vibrant take on funk. Throughout the album, there are elements of pop, soul, disco, gospel, R&B and more. You’d perhaps expect nothing less from someone from Swedish-Gambian descent – her music pairs the nagging melodies of the former tradition, with the rhythmic percussion of Africa. There’s certainly more warmth here than your typical icy cool Scandi songstress.
The mix of styles and genres makes for some exciting tracks, but they’re interspersed with some pedestrian pop. Poetic for instance will please fans of Emeli Sandé, whilst Sorry is a weary yet forgettable ballad and Still revolves around Ed Sheeran-esque guitar lines. You is the pick of the ballads here, with its raw and emotive use of vocoder, whilst closer Burial (a response to her father’s death) makes a grand and personal statement.
Still, Sey is at her best singing forceful, punchy, experimental tracks and that’s not quite sustained here. There’s certainly potential for a boundary pushing artist to break out, but for now a little more focus in her sound is required to iron out the inconsistency.
Listen: ‘Pretend’ is out now.