Stephon Foster – BEWARE – Album Review
So! Let’s say this to start – congratulations to Stephon Foster!
For those of you out there that have been following along with her journey towards her new album BEWARE by reading about it here on our pages or hearing about it on the SBS Podcast – you know what she’s been through, from management changes to scrapping an entire record’s worth of material – she soldiered on. As I’ve commented many times throughout past reviews and on our show, I think it’s more than commendable that she’s always stood up for her art, music, and career when it mattered most…and even though the struggle can always try to divert an artist’s course, she found a way to steer it all back on track, embrace the creativity & passion she has, and get this record out there. Respect!
A few of these tracks, we’ve already had the opportunity to check out in advance as Stephon made her way towards BEWARE and started releasing singles prior to the album coming out, as far back as February, when we got the chance to check out her first track, “Boy, I Quit.” As far as I can tell, between then & now, the songs I’ve heard remain in the same versions I experienced before, and of course I’d stand behind everything I’ve outlined in the previous review I wrote on “Boy, I Quit” earlier in 2019 as far as the song is concerned. What I like about having “Boy, I Quit” at track one, is that it’s a song that really allows BEWARE to grow, expand, and evolve from there…I think there’s a tiny bit of risk in the sense that there is inarguably stronger material to follow…but c’mon now people, face facts – no one out there wants to listen to a record that gives everything away all in the first track either right? Most records you’ve ever listened to from the beginning of time until now give you a quality cut at the start, but very rarely reveal the full-on best of the best, otherwise there’s nowhere for an album to go from there! So in my opinion, if she was set on including “Boy, I Quit” in this set-list, having it up front on the album works well to establish a lot of Stephon’s sweetness in her sound & style, without putting all her chips on the table all at once, weaving her vocals humbly throughout this first impression of BEWARE.
If you tuned in to the recent episode of the SBS Podcast, you’ll have heard the second track from the record and first collaboration you’ll find, “I’m Not The One” featuring Noah Soundz. And as I mentioned on that show when talking about her music, I think this exceeded just about every expectation I had for Stephon – I’d be taking a massively long look & listen to everything going RIGHT for her on this single-worthy tune and just how on the mark she really is. I love what I’m hearing from her on the mic here! I’ll put it to y’all this way…we’ve been on this ride with Stephon for quite a while now…we’ve experienced the ups & downs along the way with her…and “I’m Not The One” is that next-level I’ve been waiting to hear from Foster. The level I’ve ALWAYS known she’s had inside her, waiting to get out – the same one she’s always known about too. To hear it happening, right there in front of me as I listened to “I’m Not The One” roll out so flawlessly and reveal so many highlight moments for Stephon’s vocals – what can I say people? Confirmation is a seriously cool thing when it sounds like this…to know she’s always had that potential, and to hear the proof that she’s reaching it now, is 100% awesomeness. Noah Soundz puts in noteworthy energy on the m-i-c…dude’s got great bars in this cut and you can hear he connects with the core concepts of this song by the way he puts genuine emotion into the words. As Stephon takes us into the chorus, she’s absolutely revealing some of her best to-date without question – the hooks are strong, the pulse of the music is great, the melody is exceptional, and she nails it vocally.
Dialing it back to a piano-led melody & minimalist approach to a song full of apologies on “I’m Sorry,” Stephon goes about making amends on this third cut from BEWARE. Life & love are full of complex emotions & situations that call for us to somehow reach superhuman conclusions and make decisions we’re not always capable of at the time…it’s only through hindsight and examining everything we’ve been through sometimes, that we can eventually realize that both sides always play a role. She’s taking ownership of her thoughts, feelings, emotions, and past actions on “I’m Sorry” – and it’s through making a track like this one, that an artist like Stephon will find the closure she’s seeking – and provide comforting words for those that need to hear them from her specifically – you likely know who you are. I dig what she’s got going on in this cut though…no doubt about it…I felt like she’s created a cut that’ll definitely send you into your own thoughts, consider the actions you’ve taken personally along your own journey…and what you might have to atone for yourself. Stephon’s got a soulful approach to “I’m Sorry” that gets the sincerity of her words across…the melody line is great, the sentiment hits home.
As far as the title-track is concerned, she’s got some really solid things goin’ on. The main hooks that you’ll hear all land solidly…and you’ll find there are actually quite a few of them on “Beware” from the lead to the background vocals. That being said, there are times where you’ll feel this one layer-up into quite the stack…and I’d imagine for a few listeners out there, chances are it’ll be tough to separate the sounds & keep it from becoming like, one big block of sound coming at you when “Beware” reaches its fullest moments. When she goes timid with the vocals here & takes the power away from the energy, it has an effect on the potential impact of the explicit scenes she’s detailing as well…it’s a track that’s searching for a little balance, but it’s hard to say for sure if it ends up settling into the groove she’s truly looking for. I felt like “Beware” ends up finding the heat it needs in the final quarter of the song – before that point, it’s kind of rolling like two bodies between the sheets trying to sort it all out – which when you consider the theme of this steamy cut, might very well be the point she’s going for in terms of how this song ends up sounding. It’s got its moments, there’s no doubt about that – and you sure get to know Stephon on a song like “Beware,” that’s indisputable! It might be a bit uneven in the final results, but it’s still contains a lot of super-sexualized energy & sweetness that’ll entertain ya as well too.
The slippery & slithering vocals she slides into the microphone for “Snake,” we first heard back in April this year, along with the track to follow, “Stay In My Dreams” featuring Steady Creating right afterwards. Both these tracks add strength to the lineup & flow of BEWARE, from the added edge & bite that a song like “Snake” has, to the vibrant & colorful vocals you’ll find on “Stay In My Dreams” – both these former singles add depth to the set-list of this record and flex completely different styles, approaches, & sound. Make sure to have a read about her venomous past single “Snake” by clicking here, and check out my thoughts on her collaboration with Steady Creating on “Stay In My Dreams” by clicking over here too.
I know for a fact that Stephon is massively stoked on the way that “Rain” featuring Surron The 7th came out – and I can’t say I blame her at all. Part of the enthusiasm for this track that I’ve got comes from the fact that it’s a return to all-new stuff for me after having heard the previous two songs from back in April, but part of it’s also certainly because “Rain” is another really solid cut in the lineup of BEWARE. She also incorporates a lot of what was working well for her on “Stay In My Dreams” in the approach to “Rain” as well, which makes it a good choice to have these two appearing back-to-back, allowing the listeners to get into the vibe & stick with it consistently for a couple cuts. Each are different of course, but you’ll hear what I mean…really vibrant sounds that Foster’s working with on both tunes, and big moments where you’ll hear her vocals stand-out for sure. The note she holds towards the end of “Rain” is a particular highlight…Stephon goes for it with everything she’s got, and she nails it…that’s the kind of confidence I’m always looking to hear from her on the mic personally. Surron The 7th comes out lyrically gunnin’ – perfect Hip-Hop vibe, attacking the bars at the beginning of “Rain” with confidence, precision, and stunning tone…definitely a great assist from the man on the mic. The way Stephon’s got her vocals surrounding you and pulsing in & out on “Rain” gave this entire vibe a really awesome movement, flow, and sound. While it might not move in a typical verse/chorus fashion and keep listeners searching for what they can hang onto in the hypnotic hooks of “Rain” – that’s also exactly what’s going to be the allure & appeal to so many listeners out there, like myself. And come on people…that note she hits at the end of “Rain” is impressive every time you hear it…that’s complete confirmation Stephon’s got the goods and the talent it takes to succeed.
“Love, Yeah” takes a dip back into the tender-side of her vocal-sound in the lead, and lets those background vocals bring out the wildness with the low-end driven atmosphere surrounding her. Best way I can put it, is that “Love, Yeah” is probably the cut I’d question the most aside from “Boy, I Quit” when it comes to the potential inclusion on BEWARE…I’m on the fence with this track. On the one hand, sometimes when the album would spin, I really enjoyed the more mysterious atmosphere that “Love, Yeah” brings to the sound…but on the other hand, by comparison to the strength of the surrounding material on the record, it always felt like this track needed just a bit more ‘something’ to stand out. So don’t get me wrong…I ain’t hatin’ here…I’m just sayin, “Love, Yeah” is a decent tune…it might wander a bit in its focus & energy in comparison to a lot of the songs on BEWARE, but that also equally speaks to the fact that Foster has brought her A-game out to so many of the tracks throughout this entire set-list.
“Priorities” featuring Nick Acevedo gets the record right back on track with a memorable & engaging sound that comes out sexy & smooth; it’s all about taking time for the…uhh…let’s just say finer things in life, shall we? Sometimes you just wanna stay inside, out of the “Rain” and ditching the 9-5 in favor of some much needed time between the sheets – and that’s where these two head here on this collaborative cut…those are the kind of “Priorities” I think many of us out there can get behind, right? For the longest track you’ll find on BEWARE, you’ll be surprised at just how minimalist the music is – but how effective it becomes…being another really strong song for Foster’s vocals and the uniqueness that Acevedo brings to the track with his guest performance, it’s largely what you hear on the microphone that carries the full majority of this song from beginning to end. The results come out…interesting. And I believe I mean that in a fully positive way; I ain’t gonna lie and say a song like “Priorities” is heading straight to radio – that ain’t the kind of track it is – it’s got a real avant-garde flow & design that seems to let these two vocalists do what they do uninhibited, perhaps even mirroring the sentiment in the lyrics in that sense. Stephon does a really great job on this cut though…she’s droppin’ a sensual vibe with her honest thoughts & feelings on full display…I think she gives you plenty of reasons to make sure your “Priorities” are in-line and think hard about how you’re choosing to spend your time out there.
All I’m sayin’ Stephon…is really have a close listen to all the incredible things going right for the vocals on songs like “I’m Not The One” or “Wonderland” towards the end of the record. You can hear how rich and full of beautiful tone the singing is…you can hear the confidence…and even in those moment where Foster reaches towards that timid-style of sound she uses for her vocals, she sings those parts more boldly as well. For the most-part, I think she’s done an incredible job with “Wonderland” and has another highlight performance for her singing-voice to be found throughout the bulk of this song, especially when it comes to the lead. Maybe a couple of spots in the backing vocals where she’s wild’n’out a bit – but come on, have some FUN with her will ya? This IS “Wonderland” after all, ain’t it? I totally got into the playful vibes and punchy sound of this beat – “Wonderland” is designed to be an uplifting track and it completely succeeds with a dreamy atmosphere that’s stocked full of bright & catchy melodies & music. Really awesome ideas with the way she’s got so many different approaches to the mic here, from her own innovative creativity that reveals her range in style/sound throughout the multiple personalities she puts into the different layers, to the really clever editing & effects being used – “Wonderland” creates a genuine spark of comforting, warm, & welcoming vibes you’ll wanna turn up.
Of all the tracks I considered playing from Stephon Foster on our latest podcast episode, I almost chose “Blue” – and there’s a great chance you’ll hear it in a lineup somewhere in the future, cause she’s got a really great tune here. “Blue” does just about everything different than every other song on the record in a lot of ways, stripping it all back to just the piano and Stephon’s most soulful tones – it’s an isolated and intimate final moment that carries real emotional weight to it. She’s singing out the pain here, full strength into the sky above…and she ends up with an exceptionally moving moment in time as a result. WHY I almost picked “Blue” above so many other accessible sounds & songs she’s got throughout the lineup of BEWARE, is completely because of how unique this track really is for Stephon…and it’s a genuinely stunning effort I don’t think should be overlooked whatsoever. Like…listen to that smooth note she drops on ya around the 1:30 mark of “Blue” will ya? Come on now people…you KNOW that’s a golden moment…so full of tangible emotion you can truly feel…Stephon lets you in on the inside through “Blue” in remarkably powerful, raw, and honest ways that can’t help but impress the ears. From the song’s smoothest & sleek moments…to the sheer intensity, passion, and soul that Stephon puts into this final track’s climax – she takes you right with her on this last cut from BEWARE in all the right ways. Not only would it feel like a true accomplishment and achievement to get this record out after so long in the making – and it IS – but it would certainly also feel pretty damn good to take it home on a real highlight like she does with the way “Blue” makes such a magnificently memorable impact on ya right at the end. Foster handles her business real solidly throughout BEWARE – well done Stephon.
Find Stephon Foster’s music at Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0mP01dHp8FdYVR5xcnmWSt