Blue Soul Ten – Songs About You – Album Review
Chances are I felt the same way I did the last time I pushed play on Blue Soul Ten’s tunes with the Ten Percent record from 2019 when I reviewed it on that very first spin in those first couple seconds that form an immediate first impression when I started up the new album Songs About You – and that’s simply how wonderful it is to hear that comforting, audible reassurance of music you know & love coming back atcha through your speakers in a way that reminds you just how much you’ve missed it.
So very glad to have BST back in action in 2020!
I’ll put it to ya this way…because it kinda sums it up real nice…this will be my fourth review on Blue Soul Ten’s music, I’ve been listening faithfully since around 2016, and I’ve yet to hear this project make a record that’s not 100% worth your time. Believe me when I tell ya, we’re not breaking that streak today – we’re adding to it – Songs About You is another solid addition to one of music’s most reliable catalogs.
Credit to the beats of Blue Soul Ten which have that brilliantly Jazzy style & soulful sound we dig so much here at SBS, & have for years now. Listening to the sheer stunning smoothness of the way Songs About You starts out with such spectacularly inviting vibes like you’ll hear on “Blue Soul” was all the confirmation my ears needed to know that the quality I’ve loved in the past in this project hasn’t dropped one iota. With a crisp snare snap, saxophone & flute in the mix, “Blue Soul” immediately puts the atmosphere & aura into this record, this instrumental finds its way quickly into a highly favorable first impression and creates an awesome gateway into the lineup of collaborative tunes in the setlist to follow on Songs About You. “Blue Soul” is actually the only track on this record that goes full-on instrumental…and while you gotta admire the spirit & willingness to bring in guest-stars to add vocals throughout the rest of the songs on this album’s lineup – this cut also reminds your ears that Blue Soul Ten left to its own devices is a star of its own right as well. Composition, structure, production, performance – SOUND SELECTION – everything stands out 100%.
Like, LISTEN to the gorgeous way a song like “Everything” starts out will ya? That’s audio-enticement right there is what that is…you can’t help but feel vibes like this on a sensory level, like these songs reach right out to connect straight to your soul. Featured guest Syauqi Destanika joins the BST lineup for several tracks on this album, and “Everything” reveals a stunning dose of her vocals with a sparkling R&B style performance that complements this whole vibe spot-on. Between the depth of the grooves in the bass-lines, the brilliance of the guitar notes chiming-in, the Prince-like harmonies, and the stellar job that Syauqi does in the lead…it’d be pretty damn hard to choose what you’d like most – and that’s always a nice problem to have when listening to any artist or band out there. The balance is locked-in – you can hear a collaboration like this completely works and it immediately makes sense as to why you’ll find Destanika featured on five more of the cuts later on throughout the lineup of Songs About You. The point is…when you’re really collaborating, it sounds like this does…both the music and the vocals on “Everything” share equal billing when it comes to what we hear, and rightfully so – they both shine. I think you really have to give credit to Syauqi as well for such a controlled & professional performance – it might not have been the first track recorded in the sessions for this album, that I don’t know for sure – but it’s clear she has an exceptional understanding of the material and knew to let the music have its moments as well, know what I mean? She didn’t come in trying to dominate the spotlight – she graciously found the perfect rhythm & flow to suit the song, and that’s what collaboration is all about.
Now…because the high-quality of Blue Soul Ten generally never wavers, when it comes to what you like or love, it’ll come down to personal taste, you feel me? For myself personally, “Dear You” stood out for just about every reason I can think of. Lyrically, “Dear You” crushes it 100% – and with the delivery from guest-star Surron The 7th firing on all cylinders, together they’re making magic on this cut, no doubt about it. It’s low-key Hip-Hop at the end of the day for sure, but this is one hell of a bold performance and seriously stand-out cut…Surron The 7th puts in a performance that’s right on the edge of making “Dear You” a Spoken-Word tune, and it’s his mastery of pace & perfection in his metering & tone that lead them all to victory here. The advantage he has is clear for sure when it comes to the fundamentals…at the end of the day, any great emcee still needs to feel the vibe if a song is gonna work out – Blue Soul Ten takes care of the music flawlessly, and as a result, you get a performance from Surron The 7th that completely rises to the challenge. “Dear You” is absolutely engaging on every level from the words to the sounds you’ll hear – and while it would be rare for just about any artist or band to put out anything that’s even remotely close to a Spoken-Word cut as a single – I’d be taking a hard look at this track anyway. The inherently interesting & mysterious vibes that BST has created on “Dear You” play like a story that unfolds right in front of you…I got pulled right into this cut again & again, willingly; I suspect I won’t be alone in that either…this is a gripping track you won’t wanna take your ears off of.
That being said, the bounce back into the inspired spark & uplifting sound of BST at its Jazzy/Soul-filled finest coming back to the forefront on “This Moment” can’t be denied either…you feel this transition hit ya with the sunshine as the album slides out of the sullen sounds of “Dear You” into this upbeat vibe. I love additions like the trumpet sounds in the mix here, I love the brightness of the music all-around and the playful way “This Moment” moves & grooves…the piano-keys towards the end was a real highlight as well. You’ll dig that about Blue Soul Ten when you’re listening close to any of these tunes…different pieces will come in & out along the way…and while there’s always a tangible melody gliding smooth upon the surface, right underneath, you’ll find a plethora of subtle switches, change-ups, and additions to the mix along the way that make all the difference to the tunes this project puts out. At the end of the day, I appreciate the intentions & sentiment here – I’m more partial to the downtrodden vibes of a track like “Dear You” at the end of the day, but I’m certainly not complaining about “This Moment” either. I think Syauqi puts in another solid & confident performance that shows her vocals in another successful gear than what we heard from her in “Everything” beforehand, and she’ll continue to wield her versatility like the asset it is when she continues to show up throughout the lineup on Songs About You. The best way I can put it, is that I think Blue Soul Ten and Syauqi do just about everything they can with what they’ve got here…in my opinion, “This Moment” has the toughest spot on this record to fill in coming after “Dear You,” and going with such a bright & bouncy vibe was definitely the right call to make in giving this cut the chance it deserves to make an impact on ya through the transition of sound.
Here’s where I’m at though…we all have our strengths – and some are straight-up undeniable. When it comes to making music and flexing a variety of styles, sounds, and approaches, it’s only natural that we’re going to compare what we hear. I felt like “Everything” showed a graceful & soulful side of Syauqi’s vocals that worked well…and even though the vibe she was rockin’ was totally different the next time out on “This Moment,” she still delivered on her end of the deal with a confident turn on the mic and a more energetic performance. But if you’re telling me that somehow…you’re not hearing what I hear in the way she sings “Cupid’s Bow” then dear readers, dear friends, my oh my how DID you get here to these pages of ours? We crave finding gems like this song here at sleepingbagstudios – this is the sound of a collaboration where every single element finds the place where it belongs and nestles into the atmosphere perfectly. As far as Syauqi is concerned, we have a saying around here we like to live by – “when it’s right, it’s right” – seems simple, but it’s as true as true can be…and when it comes to listening to music, there’s no mistaking the sound of perfection. From the lead to the background, she is purely mesmerizing, graceful, hypnotic, and captivating…it really is the sound of a singer that’s feeling the moment and embracing the magic within it – you couldn’t ask for more than what you’ll get in the subtle charm and soulful approach that Syauqi puts into these words. You add in the cleverness in the music supporting her with the groovin’ bass-lines, chimes chiming in, and the sparkle of the keys in the mix…I’m tellin’ ya folks…there are songs that are easy to listen to, and then there are cuts like this with a smoothness that’s in a complete class of its own. “Cupid’s Bow” came out as soulfully strong as it gets.
Not that all of these songs don’t dig deep into the emotional fabric woven throughout the threads of this record, but you’ll likely definitely feel yourself relating to what’s being communicated in the words of “Healthy” more than you might have thought. I’ll put it to you this way…if you don’t, do you even LOVE bro? Many of us have been in that state of contemplation…the push/pull of relationships, all the way from the pure infatuation of the salad days, to questioning why you ever got together in the first place…sometimes you gotta wonder if the situation you’re in is “Healthy” for your mind, body, and soul. This cut dives straight into that theme and gets great results in the process; both the vocals of Syauqi and rapper Rae Dot make huge contributions, with each presenting half of the thought-process of the relationship, giving unique perspectives to shared, similar feelings in the lyrics you’ll hear. All-in-all, it’s an excellent method of giving us a glimpse into the full story, as best as can ever be done, allowing us to experience the thoughts on the inside that so many of us share in our own lives…it makes “Healthy” mighty relatable…maybe even too relatable for a few of you out there currently struggling…but in the end, you gotta appreciate how it’s songs like this that actually provide the comfort in knowing you’re not the only one feeling this way & you’re not alone. No complaints from me…I think it’s an insightful cut to be found on Songs About You in more ways than one – the low-key vibes of the music give both guest-stars the opportunity to maximize their moments on the mic, which they certainly do. Poetic, real, and relentlessly smooth…”Healthy” hits the mark for sure.
I absolutely love the way “Another Day” begins and the hypnotic sound this song slips right into. With vocals bouncing from the lefts to the rights and spectacular distance in the music as the verses begin, I felt like this was destined to become one of the best cuts on the record without question. While it’s rare that Blue Soul Ten makes a move that seems out of place, “Another Day” falls victim here in the chorus, rolling into the main hooks like a car on square wheels. No fault of Syauqi’s – she does an excellent job – and for the most part, so does BST! Y’all know what I’m gonna say here and that I’ve gotta call it like I hear it…and Blue Soul Ten knows that likely because they’d hear the same things I do…and yup, I’m questioning that decision to punch-in the vocal melody with the music of the keys in the background punctuating each note like it does. I ain’t gonna lie…it’s one of the strangest choices I’ve heard made in the BST catalog of tunes, and one of the first I can recall that snaps us straight out of the inherently smooth sound with something that’s arguably a lot clunky. Not just a little, but a lot. I get the intentions of the design…and as a pattern, even though it’s playing behind the beat & still contains a hook of its own – when it comes to the listening ears out there, I’m 99% sure an ambitious idea like this tends to get lost in translation. Having said all that – that ONE tiny addition…that ONE extra layer…sometimes it can make or break a song or its repeat value later on…but it’s only natural that artists test the fence every once in a while to push themselves creatively, and I respect that too. I think Blue Soul Ten might have pushed it one step too far with “Another Day” when it comes to the chorus…either that one part needs to go altogether, or be less present in the mix in my opinion; doing that would resolve every issue and make the rest of this song shine as spectacularly as it should. Because the rest? The rest is freakin’ fantastic folks. Like reading a story where the author breaks your suspension of disbelief for a moment and makes you question what’s up…”Another Day” kinda has that same effect…but the majority of this tune is intact & on point. Having spun it several times over at this point after listening to Songs About You many times over this past week, I can tell ya firsthand that every time “Another Day” started up I wanted to listen to it all over again, because the verses came out with an incredible mix between the effects, music, and vocals. Sometimes we write a verse that outshines a chorus…that happens…I’m not necessarily sure that’s entirely the case here when it comes to this tune – I think the hooks are strong – I just also feel like the chorus has a distracting element that keeps us from completely getting to the heart of what’s working.
Correcting course quickly, Blue Soul Ten responds with one of the most remarkable highlights you’ll find on Songs About You with “First One” featuring Tyla Raé. Radiant, captivating, soulful, heartfelt…and ultimately, quite beautiful… Raé gives these lyrics the emotion & tone they deserve. While it’s a fairly subdued performance & professionally controlled from beginning to end…you can absolutely hear she’s got the capability to really belt out some big notes if the moment ever calls for it…there’s star-quality in her vocals and there’s no mistaking the X-factor she’s got. Blue Soul Ten gives her a slight advantage with a spot on one of the record’s most undeniably amazing songs…the real question is, would it have been half as amazing without Tyla up front on the mic? As good as the writing & music are, I’d probably have to say no…it’s really Raé’s vocals that brings this entire song to that next level it deserved. What I love about the music in particular, aside from the soulful noodling notes of the jazzy-guitar, is the use of really smart percussion and ambient sound in amongst the warm glow of the organ & chilled-out keys. So…well…now that I look at it here in-print, it seems as if I love everything about this tune doesn’t it? I’d be the last person to argue against myself, so I’m gonna stand by that assessment – I think “First One” comes out as mesmerizing & captivating as you could ever hope to hear. The best comparison I could make would be to a song that’s well outside of the genre you’d find Blue Soul Ten in, but if you can think of how the hypnotic vocal melody & sweetness of a song like “The Only Exception” by Paramore hits you in the heartstrings and keeps you lost in its swirl of endearing emotion…that’s what you’ll find on “First One” as well. Fantastic lyrics, perfect vocals, stand-out music, flawless production…pretty hard to complain about a tune that has everything going for it like “First One” does – so I won’t! I love this song.
You’ll find many of the greats out there in the genres of Pop, Soul, and R&B…and generally speaking, I suppose it’s fairly true of all music to a degree – but sometimes you just gotta take a moment & flex some skills…and maybe that works out better in the kinds of styles I’ve mentioned here. You know the ones I’m talking about…those show-stopper moments where everyone in the audience is in the palm of the artist or band’s hands, listening to the chops on display. That’s how I felt about “On Me” overall. It’s a loose cut with lots of guts; I have no doubt whatsoever that in comparison to the majority of this lineup of songs that this track will take longer to sink in with the listening ears out there in terms of our natural tendency to seek out hooks to sing along with…you get something different out of “On Me” altogether than you’ll find in any other track on Songs About You. The performances themselves will stand out more-so than any one aspect of the writing, music, or words will…and there ain’t nothing wrong with that either, it just adds another dimension to the depth of the lineup on this record. That’s not to say the words & music don’t make their own impact as well too – they do – it’s just more like something you’d notice after a couple of spins through the album as opposed to getting that instant acceptance through universally accessible sound. There’s a much more artistic design in “On Me” that allows for a completely different kind of freedom in the music & vocals that’s just as compelling to listen to as the rest of the material on Songs About You, all achieved by approaching this cut from a new angle. Listen to the guitar work in the background…listen to the spectacular vocals from guest-star Dennis Lorenzo…the cleverness in the keys…the once again Prince-like Gospel-esque harmonies…there’s a ton that stands out here for all the right reasons, but I’d admit it does feel like you listen to each piece on its own for what it offers as opposed to hearing “On Me” as a cut where every layer interacts intensely. There’s a relaxed vibe to “On Me” and heavy emotions at work as well…and when the moment is called for, it rises to an inspired sparkle & shine…like I said at the beginning here, seeing this live would be awesome…it’s got a moment or two for everything from each instrument in the music to the lead & background vocals all getting their time in the spotlight to impress our ears in one way or another.
Bringing it back full-circle to the first voice we heard on this record, Syauqi Destanika puts in one last outstanding turn on the m-i-c before Songs About You is finished, appearing on “This Time” at the end. Another spectacular performance and collaboration between them that nearly rivals the success they achieved on “Cupid’s Bow” earlier on – “This Time” puts the audible cherry on top of what’s been another incredible experience with Blue Soul Ten overall. The longest track on the album by a country mile at nearly six-minutes in length – Songs About You ends up sounding & feeling like it got the finale it truly deserved, with one of the record’s strongest cuts in “This Time” demanding you put this album on all over again for a repeat. No objections about the extra length from me – BST uses the time wisely, and as for Syauqi…she sounds amazing as she lets rip some of her boldest & most expressive vocals that you’ll find in any of her appearances throughout this record. I highly dig what she did with the extra time…it wasn’t like Blue Soul Ten chose to simply rock verse/chorus/verse here, so much as they let the creativity & music take them wherever it would…and as it turns out, that was in every right direction. You drift & glide along with Syauqi’s soulful vocals, surrounded by a stellar mix of instrumentation that captivates with colorful ideas & smooth sound as only Blue Soul Ten truly can…you get that hit of saxophone with the warm organ glow in the background…you get the perfectly controlled beat & smart percussion you love…clever solos from the guitar that eventually find a spot to thrive in before it’s over, somewhere around the 4:20 mark…and all this time, Destanika has been angelic in the harmonies and fully present in the lead the entire time. “This Time” has got it all & then some – and it really gave Songs About You the ending a set-list as strong as this album has deserved…Blue Soul Ten finishes this record with an emotional experience that resonates within you and instantly has you craving for a repeat.
Songs About You is officially being released on September 4th, 2020 – make sure to find out more about Blue Soul Ten & stay connected to the latest information by linking up with the pages below!
Official Website: http://www.bluesoulten.com
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