Stephon Foster – “Drown” – Single Review
I give credit where credit is due, always. Stephon Foster has tried an incredible amount of things in the course of her career to-date…or at the very least, since I started listening back in 2018. To a degree, her story has really been one of an artist searching for the sound that suits them best – many of you out there in this music-scene we share have been locked into that strange & wonderful journey, and know exactly what that’s like. You experience incredible highs and a few lows along the way – you test the waters by trying out new concepts, skills, ideas, methods and approaches to making music. Some of these things work flawlessly, because they draw on what comes naturally to you – and others, not so much – they reveal the struggle in audible form as you continue to stretch your wings on a creative level. That being said, I always salute the effort. To me, it’s far better to at least attempt new things, regardless of whether you pass or fail, or what anyone says about the results – even me. Growth and evolution in art…the very act of trying new things…takes courage that most people just don’t even have.
“Drown” got away from Stephon a bit, in my opinion – and that’s okay, it happens. Heck, it happens to myself here in writing almost every second day…probably to someone you know in the business they run, and to countless others around the globe doing their level best to do the best they can do. We all stumble a bit, we all have setbacks…that’s stuff is actually incredibly natural and inherent to being human – it’s how we go about choosing to respond and rebound that can make the entire difference. “Turn off your mind, turn off your pride” as she says herself in “Drown” – life is about staying humble and knowing there’s pretty much always something we could do better, and that we’re always learning.
Ultimately, she’s got stuff she can fix here…if she wants to. The last thing I’m ever gonna tell anyone is that I’m the end-all-be-all of opinions – I’m not. To me, she’s got way too many conflicting vocal layers in the mix on “Drown” that prevent this experience from presenting the smooth accessibility it should probably have in the main hook…but she might not necessarily feel the same way. And that’s okay too – we should be comfortable with having different opinions on music and art…that’s part of the game y’all. Objectivity is part of it too though…and Stephon could perhaps benefit from a few more people in her orbit being real with her about what does & doesn’t work. That’s where I come in…the random dude from way out yonder on the internet that just calls things like he hears them. I hear some of the layers in “Drown” and the exceptional performance that Stephon is putting in and how well she’s singing – and I can hear how all that could get lost in the mix & swirl of vocals & tones clashing to the average everyday listeners out there. I hear over-complications where the real recipe to success is so much simpler…and I can’t help but think to myself, why put in so much work & effort when it could all be so much easier Stephon? I think there’s a chance that she’s going for an audible symbolism…like having what we hear be like voices bubbling to the surface from way down below…and if that’s the case, I can appreciate the concept, even if the results drift too far from the accessibility she’d want to have. As y’all know, I’m all about doing what the song is calling for…anything other than that, is overdoing it in my books, full-stop. Stephon knows what she can accomplish by taking things in a smoother direction, and she knows she’s capable – and that’s exactly what the dreamy hook at the core of “Drown” is actually calling out for, in my opinion. I feel like the hooks really could work – she’s definitely got the right idea in the melody, she’s just gotta dig in and find the heart of this song, as opposed to perhaps forcing it a bit like it feels she might be right now. Big deep breaths. Focus. Think R&B/Soul. Sing. Giving a song like “Drown,” which was written in tribute, and dedicated to just about half the planet this side of the Mississippi river, is really what the moment itself deserves! You wanna give people every opportunity to want to turn something UP whenever possible. Right now, with the way her layers are colliding and crashing into each other, it’s more like we’re experiencing a collage of sound that’s coming out like one jumbled kaleidoscope in audible form…and I don’t think “Drown” quite possesses the smoothness she’s intended for it to have. On the good news front, there’s layers in there that do work wonderfully and some really strong moments on the mic…so it might not be a case of redoing everything from the ground up, but that is honestly what I’d recommend. To me, I hear a whole other song in “Drown” that could exist…one that brings out the soulful best of Stephon Foster and accentuates the mix of sweetness & humbleness a song like this is truly calling for. Like, even that extremely BIG moment around the 1:50 mark…I’d dial all that energy way, way back Stephon…listen to what the melody is calling ya for & let it guide you, and let the moment flow as naturally as possible…find the inherent beauty of “Drown,” and roll with that m’lady.
She’ll get there. If there’s one thing I know about Stephon Foster is that she might experience setbacks, but she rebounds even stronger, and never lets anything anyone says affect her work-ethic or interest in being the best version of herself that she can be. She’ll be back with something new in no time, as she heads towards her upcoming record rumored to be called The Emotional Rollercoaster, and I’ll probably have nothing to criticize when she does. Because just like The Emotional Rollercoaster, life, love, music, and art, is full of ups & downs, triumphs & struggles…the key is to keep going forward…and I know that she will.
Find more tunes from Stephon Foster at Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/stephon-foster/1099970566
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