Ronald Williams – SuperNova – Album Sampler/Singles Review
Alrighty now…this is what you always hope for in between a then and a now…progression, evolution, development. We last checked out the music of Ronald Williams in August of this year and discovered an artist that is finding their voice and really starting to embrace this moment in the spotlight on the album Magnificent…lots of chances taken on that record and a wide variety of sounds & styles. Even though it had just come out, we had already learned that Williams had another album set & ready to roll – and looks like we’ve got ourselves a sample of it here in advance with four cuts from the upcoming record SuperNova being released soon. Ain’t got an official date for ya yet…and keep in mind things can always end up changing between a pre-release review and the time it’s officially out there – but from what I’m hearing so far, it definitely sounds like Ronald Williams is taking another solid step forward. Always inspiring to hear someone’s music heading in the right direction…plus this man’s got real style; the more fearless he gets with it, the better the results continue to be.
I bet there are a lot of people that would look at a grizzled & bearded face like mine and assume I couldn’t get into a jam like “SuperNova” at first glance…and they’d definitely be wrong. I was raised on artists like Prince & Michael Jackson just as much as I was on Beethoven and Nine Inch Nails…there was music of all kinds in my household growing up. If you read the review on Ronald’s last record Magnificent, you’ll know he certainly has no problem revealing his own influences when it comes to his music…two of which, are definitely Prince and MJ…you can easily hear that in both the vocals and music of Williams. Ain’t no shame in that game at all…he’s still bringing plenty of his own personality into the mix as well, but you can certainly tell he’s got mad respect for those that paved the way for him today. Like if you were to throw on “SuperNova” right now, you’d hear what sounds like a cut right from Prince’s Black album before it quickly becomes much more MJ-inclined through the dat-bass, synth, & beat style it’s got goin’ on, plus of course, the highlight vocal moments from Williams that also give it that Jackson-esque sound. Tough terrain to walk on I’d imagine…if I’m being entirely honest with ya, he’s got moments where he’s an absolute dead-ringer for the departed superstar; it’s always going to draw comparison, which is something Ronald will have to reconcile with when going this far into the MJ sound. Could very well be that hearing that comparison time & again will never get old for him – could be one day that’ll come along where he’ll want to lean more towards something that brings out his own identity a little more…hard to say. When things come out as strongly as they do in the movin’ & groovin’ that takes place on “SuperNova” – it’s really tough to argue that we wouldn’t all want more of a good thing, which is exactly what this is. When it comes right down to it, we also have to acknowledge that all sounds & styles of music resurface and make their own comebacks over time – MJ’s will as well – and ultimately, there’s very few people out there that could replicate that sound as well as Ronald can. Hooks of “SuperNova” are as smooth as they are strong, he’s got his fireworks saved for the end as well – ain’t nothing to complain about on this cut…it’s an excellent first impression of the upcoming album. Stylistic & slick – Ronald’s put in an excellent performance on the mic & done the title-track true justice.
Listen to the phaaaaaaaaaaatness will ya? The music of “Out My Head” is BEEFY, no doubt about it…this is like a thick cut steak of a song…you can practically chew on this while you listen to it – that’s how thick this groove becomes. My gut tells me there are a lot of things going right about this song, but a bit of potential resistance here too. Idea-wise, songwriting-wise, music-wise – I think he’s right on target for the sound & style that he’s looking for. Vocally…it’s a tougher call to make. In my opinion, he’s walking a really fine line here; he’s got the right idea for the verses he’s written…I’m not entirely sure that tone-wise it doesn’t come about a bit more grating than he’s looking for as the song begins is all. You can hear he’s reaching for a similar MJ-esque style to fuel the sound of the verse here, which WILL fit really well…I think this one is a really tough song to be objective about if you’ve created it, but you gotta stand back from the work sometimes and examine how we might hear something as listeners. Best way I think I can put it to Ronald is that, he IS on at the end of the day…but it’s like you can hear the strain or the effort to get there, as opposed to how naturally smooth the results come out on “SuperNova” right before it…at least in the verse & maybe a bit in that pre-chorus as well. Chorus is gold as far as I’m concerned, it’s simple, it’s high-up there for Ronald’s vocals, but he’s got all the right tone there. So it’s not a question of capabilities – he’s got the talent to pull it off…the contrast of the high-up vocals and thick low-end sound sounds almost worlds apart in tone throughout the verse and a lower-key approach to the verse might resolve that…again, hard to say – you can hear what he’s going for on this track. The only thing you wanna avoid is that reach one step too far to the point where it’ll turn a tone into a whine – and I think he’s got a couple of those moments in this tune that he could easily smooth out. So stay tuned on that…like I said, it’s early still and the album ain’t out yet…you never know, things could change. Idea-wise, I wouldn’t change a thing though – he’s onto a killer groove here and the flow of how the vocals work with the music is right on the money. Seriously cool stuff to listen to in this flashy sound though, from that deeper-than-deep low-end synth to the brilliant addition of the piano keys later on, “Out My Head” will catch your attention easily with its giant, all-encompassing atmosphere. Once again, Williams displays strong songwriting that has big hooks that hit the mark without question.
LOVE the way that “Sarah” begins – that’s a massively killer sound Ronald’s working with that’s full of character and a hint of the eastern-tinge through the sitar riff adding to the vibe. He’s headed into a more theatrical and performance-based idea here…and I think people will appreciate this cut – Ronald puts in a wildly diverse & versatile turn on the mic, letting the mood of the music dictate the energy he puts into each part of the song. What I really liked a lot about this cut from moment one was just how far it takes you away from your own world and puts you right into Ronald’s…”Sarah” has a very unique & distinctive sound that you’ll certainly remember. Accessibility-wise, he’s dialed it way, way back here and probably narrowed the audience a little with this particular tune…this is a much more artistic effort than going after the giant hooks on either “SuperNova” or “Out My Head” before. “Sarah” also comes way later on in the official lineup of the album as well though, and as listeners, we’re usually pretty well prepared for these kind of weighty ideas as a record plays on, so that’s a good move on his part. No reason to bury it – “Sarah” is a quality tune for sure and it’ll stand out for its own unique reasons to each person listening individually, but having it up at the front of the record would have definitely been riskier, so again, good call by featuring this later on in the album when we’re ready to absorb it. Deadly vibe really…”Sarah” has a whole bunch of fantastic percussion & instrumentation forming its sleek sound…highly enticing to listen to and full of genuine character. I loved that Ronald also makes sure to take time to let that instrumentation shine through as well…he’s got great parts and delivers solidly throughout his vocals on “Sarah,” but he also understood that the music of this song really makes an impact on us too. He gives us several chances to really get to know it well through the space he’s using and also an extended ending long past the vocals that brings this spectacular combination of sounds right to the forefront. You’ll hear a truly exceptional guitar solo start it off and then dive headlong into a final couple minutes worth of instrumentation that’s like a mysterious celebration of this entire sound. In terms of music that should capture your interest, “Sarah” is fully loaded; as slow & subtly as it may move, the musicianship is killer, the vocals fit the mood in a truly compelling way, and this whole vibe glides along with a controlled intensity that’s remarkable to experience. Seriously cool tune, written for his wife Sarah about three years ago…good call in bringing this one back, quality tune all-around.
Where things get tough…are in assessing a song like “A Letter For You” – so let’s get a few things clear right off the bat. First of all, the ideas here & the melody…we’re probably talking about the strongest hooks you’ll hear from any of these tunes when it comes to the writing…that’s a fact – these are sincere and bulletproof, strong, powerful, and genuinely moving. As far as how Ronald sings it goes – 95% of the time, I’m absolutely loving it…he’s got great verses, an amazing chorus, gets a bit wild with the vocals outside of both of those at times, but that’s cool, he’s feeling the moment and there’s a charming aspect to that that’ll pull you in as well. There might be a few questionable moments in the mix there as far as the surrounding vocals go – but make sure to note that there are just as many highlights in those moments too…so if anything, maybe a lil’ up/down with the results of different things he’s trying for there. He’s written this song for his family as a reminder that they’re always in his heart and on his mind now that he’s moved from Jersey to North Carolina – a sweet song built on his authentic emotions and caring enough to let those he loves know that he misses them, but that they’re with them all the time. Through the way he’s got the flow of the chorus set, the lyrics, and the vocal-layers all interacting so powerfully together, you really do feel that warmth and glow…that comfort of reflecting on those you love and the sound of what it’s like to be inspired by them. These are all the good things…there are plenty, there truly are…and with a bit of a remix, this could very well become one of my favorites on SuperNova without question, I think he’s written a real songwriter’s song here…a ton of people would appreciate the heart he’s put into this tune and connect with his words, I have no doubt about it. I wish I could help Ronald more on this cut, but I’m almost kind of confused when it comes to what’s missing – but something still is here. Last thing I wanna do is bag on someone’s song that they wrote for their family & all…but if I can tell a dying man with terminal brain cancer that there’s something off in the mix, I kinda gotta keep things consistent and just lay it out there as honest as I can to Ronald here too. I think it’s the vocals and where they sit in the mix specifically…it’s a tough one to do because you want that lead to stand out, you want that chorus to come in and really take over the vibe…but I think where Ronald’s voice is sitting right now so close up front in the mix might be taking away from the potential impact that the dynamics of the song have & could potentially contribute to the power of the emotion we experience along with it. At its best, “A Letter For You” is a certainly a single-worthy tune, even for a slow jam – but as it stands right now, has tangible demo-like qualities in the mix here in comparison to the rest of the tunes that’ll hinder its chances of making its rightful mark on the hearts & minds of the people out there. As for the moments where Ronald maybe gets a bit too into the moment – he can smooth those out too if he wants to…I could point them out, but he knows exactly where they are & when he’s on & off where he wants to be. Up to him if he wants to hear the 5% he can improve from now until the end of time – we’ll all hear the 95% going right, it’ll never plague us as listens so much as it’ll haunt him later on personally. Without question though, he’s got another fantastic cut on his hands here, excellent writing.
An artist like Ronald Williams will go through several evolutions and reach several new breakthroughs throughout his career…and I’d definitely argue this is another strong step forward for the man as he makes his way towards being the artist he truly wants to be. Because if there’s one thing that Ronald’s got goin’ on besides his own stunning talents and capabilities – it’s the fact that his desire and genuine want to do this music thang is always something you can sincerely hear. Solid range of ideas and sounds on this sample from SuperNova – it’ll definitely be interesting to check the rest of the record out and see what else he’s got in store for us…could be a lot of great tunes coming up on this album from Ronald.
Find music & videos from Ronald Williams at his official channel at YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxyWxecgMSCG2jcJNA1Ku3g
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