Damien Q – “Black Unicorns” – Single Review
Since finally cracking the code of artist Damien Q and his enigmatic signature approach to music that continually keeps us guessing as he pursues new artistic dimensions in sound, I feel like I have a much better grip on the intentions of the man behind it all & what drives him forward creatively. Chances are I’m not alone in that – if you had a chance to tune in to one of the recent episodes of the SBS Podcast last month when we aired our Covid Relief specials, Damien Q was one of the artists kind enough to let us in a bit on the inside of what’s in his head & in his heart when it comes to the art of making music – so you know firsthand as well…the man is in this for the purest of reasons. Or perhaps you’ve been reading the reviews I’ve written about his songs from the past like “Zen Boyz,” “Slow-Motion Dosing,” or “Aftermath” and you’ve been drawing to the same conclusions about Damien Q and his shape-shifting sound as I have…that it’s likely always best to expect the unexpected. I dig that about this guy.
Mainly because I know that, pass or fail, what we hear from him in a new single probably won’t be anything like we heard from him the last time around; I’ve learned just enough about Damien Q to feel like I can say that fairly definitively now. Respect for the creative process is one thing of course, and results are another beast entirely…DQ already knows I’ve got love for the way he approaches his music & career, that’s no secret to him, or to anyone that’s read my reviews on him from the past. I say ‘past’ like it’s been forever…I reviewed his last single “Human To Human” just over a month ago – but you get what I mean…my respect for his creative process and the way he gets into music is already established.
Sounds like I’m setting the man up for some kinda critique here eh?
I’ll put it to ya this way…I’m not one to ever criticize uniqueness all that much…because I genuinely believe that above all things, again pass or fail, that should be completely and entirely encouraged. So do I personally like a lot of what I hear in “Black Unicorns?”
Not so fast there people…I don’t give that information away until the third act…stay tuned…
The long & the short of what’s ultimately being said is that he’s on the artistic side more than the accessible side this time around with “Black Unicorns” – but that’s if we’re talking about the masses. I like to think the vast majority of the people that have been reading these pages of ours for years now know I’m much more likely to advocate on behalf of something truly new, innovative, or artistic that might not even work 100% as opposed to a completely polished & shiny hook…though I’ll always admit, I’m not immune to those either. Overall, “Black Unicorns” is the kind of song that hasn’t been done too many times before, if at all…it’s not the kind of combination that you stumble upon every day, that I can tell ya. I’d understand to a degree if people felt like they were experiencing the audio equivalent of a mustard, cream cheese, and jelly sandwich…technically, there’s a lot going on here to chew on. Each element on its own will likely stand out for all the right reasons…as to whether or not people will be able to hang with the full scope of this song from beginning to end when combined…that’s harder to say.
Where I think “Black Unicorns” has the opportunity to make the biggest impact is definitely in the main hooks of this single, and in the cleverness of its creativity. I think the chorus of “what have you got to lose?” reveals what a great singer Damien Q truly is when he’s giving it everything he’s got – you can hear the energy required to pull those notes off ain’t easy, and he’s straight-up nailing it, every time. So I’m loving that…the performance is awesome and it gets across a real frantic sense of urgency-meets-desperation…like a message flashing at you from a neon sign that says LISTEN…AND CONSIDER. The more Hip-Hop-inspired background vocals…I’m probably a lot more take it or leave it with that part – I recognize them as more essential to the rhythm & flow, like an instrument would be, as opposed to really standing out like the hooks do for Q’s singing. The Spoken Word part that shows up, is bound to throw just about everyone off on that first listen, because you’d never be able to predict that comin’ atcha…and I know full-well the toll a move like this immediately takes on listeners out there. Damien Q isn’t afraid to be polarizing as long as he’s true to himself and his art…and it’s definitely the Spoken Word aspect of “Black Unicorns” that’ll be the water-cooler moment the people talk about. Whether it worked out, whether it interrupted the flow of the rest of the song, whether it snapped you out of the rhythm as a listener for a moment or two, or whether it pulled you in even closer – making such distinctive moves like this get noticed & get the people talking. And you know what I always say – it’s not when they ARE talking that you have to worry about; it’s when they’re NOT that should trouble you.
What else can I tell ya…I mean…if I haven’t said it enough yet, I love, love, LOVE, the way he sings the majority of this song, which leans on the strength of the main chorus vocal-hook it features quite a bit – but that worked for me. Damien Q keeps the lyricism fairly simple & straightforward, though wildly interpretive as well. Especially if you factor in one last thing aside from what you’ll hear in the words that you get on “Black Unicorns” – which is an inscription that is on the front of the artwork, that reads: “This music and the land it was recorded on were stolen.” This might or might not give you a bit more of a clue as to what Damien Q is singing about – I’ll admit, lyrically, it’s still got more than enough ambiguity to be about many things, not just particularly aimed at any one theme. Or at least that’s what I’m hearing…though that freakin’ inscription on the cover for the artwork had me considering each & every word I was hearing like I was trying to piece together an entire puzzle without having the full picture in front of me. But I’ve never made a claim to being a smart man, just a guy that knows what he likes to hear & likes to share that information with you out there. I like that what I hear from Damien Q is always different and quite often challenges our perception of what we know music to be like…that tells me that, whether it’s this time, or the next time – at some point, or perhaps at many, he’s going to find that breakthrough combination that’ll absolutely blow our minds & drop our jaws as we listen, because it’ll be revolutionary and something we’ve never experienced before. Songs like “Black Unicorns” likely trade a bit of accessibility in the pursuit of those ends…but with experimentation & the real integrity it takes to tackle uniqueness fearlessly, every step like this is a solid step forward in its own way and a huge part of what keeps a versatile artist like Damien Q continuously evolving…and thriving.
Find tunes from Damien Q, including the new single “Black Unicorns” at Apple Music, right here at this direct link: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/damien-q/1320451297
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