Stephon Foster – “Purple Sky” / “Love Adrenaline” – Singles Review
If you tuned into the most recent episode of the SBS Podcast earlier today, you had the opportunity to check out one of a couple cuts that have come our way recently by Stephon Foster, called “Purple Sky.”
If you haven’t yet – you’re behind the times! Check it out by clicking right here and catch yourself up with a good listen…we’re gonna keep moving on here while you do! As I mentioned on the show, it’s been a minute since we’ve had her at our pages – and in the background in between, believe me, Stephon manages to get a whole lotta drama invading her time away from making music, in the world outside of that studio she loves being in and microphones she likes singing into so much. We have some experience in all that from the past music we’ve reviewed in Foster’s catalog…this isn’t the first time she’s run into issues when it comes to relationships, life & love…over the past year alone, not only has she endured the breakdown of yet another partnership out there, she also unfortunately lost her mom after she passed away last year. And of course, our most sincere condolences go out to Stephon & Stephon’s family for that…anyone out there that’s been through it knows it’s the hardest of hard times.
The effects of a tragedy like that can be revealed in several ways – you gotta understand folks, Foster didn’t just lose her mom, she was her best friend as well. You combine that with another breakup added into the mix – and it’s a recipe for personal disaster, with so much change occurring in such little time. According to the notes I’ve got here, this all had Stephon turning to alcohol for the answers, at the very least for a short while, drowning her sorrows with booze while just trying to maintain some sort of functionality. Like I said, no judgments here – anyone who has been through it knows it ain’t ever easy.
Perhaps the most crucial detail is however, that its music that kept her grounded enough to come back. She started writing & singing & recording again, prepping a new album, and absorbing herself into the art & craft she loves so much as she did her best to heal herself – and here we are. At least kinda sorta – I’m not gonna pretend for one moment I know everything about what it’s like to live Stephon Foster’s life – I don’t – I just know I’m always into a comeback story, and support artists that never wanna quit.
If you’ve read past reviews on Stephon’s music here at our pages, you’ve experienced some of the ups & down and triumphs she’s had with her progress as an artist along the way over time – and as I mentioned on the SBS Podcast earlier today, there’s zero doubt about the fact that the artist she is now with the skillset she’s rocking, is at the very least, a clear country mile away from where she started, or at least from where I first tuned into her music long ago back in 2018. I’m not quite ready to say we’re completely outta the woods just yet when it comes to the results & what I hear in these two new singles – but I will definitely confirm the fact that she’s clearly still on the way up and getting the most out of her songwriting. Both “Love Adrenaline” and “Purple Sky” have excellent features in the structure, layers, and design that have their own uniquely enticing aspects to draw us in – Stephon quickly proves that her time away was well spent in coming up with new material that stands out for several reasons. On a writing level – those reasons are all in the positive column – she’s got excellent new ideas that suit her well, and you can hear how she continues to flex her own style without too much compromise from the artist we’ve known in the past – and that’s what you want to find as a listener…something that keeps the story moving in an artist’s or band’s career, without taking away from the identity overall. Essentially, we know it’s Stephon when we listen – and for the vast majority, these are new moves that build on what she’s been creating with her musical legacy over time & two singles well worth pursuing.
All this good stuff being said, I ain’t gonna lie to her either, and she knows that. When it came time to listen to these two songs and the final results and decide which track I’d be spinning on the latest episode of our show – she left me with only one option. Don’t get me wrong here – I’ve got two songs in front of me that both have great ideas in’em – but in terms of what I’d wanna play – only one option. I don’t always fault production…but I might have to this time around; I’m a big believer that songs are recorded by all kinds of people with all kinds of different means & methods and in different locations and…I mean…don’t let the mechanics of the machine STOP you from making music – but do be conscious of the end results and how we’d react from a listeners perspective. The best way to do that is to be as objective as possible, and remember that no matter what the circumstances may be – you’re still always gonna be a listener too, even if you’re an artist or rockin’ with a full-on band of your own. So if Stephon wants to slide over both “Purple Sky” and “Love Adrenaline” at the same time – that’s never gonna be a problem – but at the same time, it invites instant comparison, and there really isn’t a comparison to be had here at all. You’ve got “Love Adrenaline” which is a decent tune that has some excellent ideas & hooks – but production that misses the mark. No one listening could come to any other conclusion other than that, after hearing how right things go on “Purple Sky” by comparison. There’s never a point where I wanna be like, ‘this is good’ & ‘this ain’t,’ in my day when it can be avoided – but at the same time, it’s never gonna do anyone any good when you don’t point it all out in cases like this where the difference is clear as day. Ideas-wise – both of these songs were cuts I could easily play on a show like ours and I’d still happily back them both as quality in that regard – but when it came to examining the final mix, “Purple Sky” leaves “Love Adrenaline” in the dust and exposes a bit of work that still needs to be done. New speakers over here at SBS in this past month…I’d love to say it’s on my end, but I know the reality of what I’m hearing is the same you’d be listening to as well – and “Love Adrenaline” is way over the red-line at its most intense for sure. Which is honestly too bad, because I do think that Stephon is working with an excellent set of ideas, hooks, and energy that work – and I even dig the effects she’s rockin’ with in the layers of her vocals – it all just needs to be dialed in. Again, you can’t hear the differences in “Purple Sky” by comparison and not acknowledge this kind of stuff; either you do it in your head while you listen, or you say it out loud in-print here like I do – but we can all hear it. To deny those same very differences would be a disservice to Stephon and the progress she makes.
Because here’s the real good news – I’d be willing to go as far as to say that “Purple Sky” is without question among the best I’ve heard from her to-date. I still think she’s jammin’ an extra syllable here & there into her writing that she could take out to give her a bit more space & freedom to sing as opposed to have to try & keep up all the time to how many words she wants to include, I still think there’s the occasional questionable note or two from her vocally along the way as well – but in terms of writing and overall execution from start to finish, there are more positives about “Purple Sky” and what it all means for Stephon’s potential in the future than you’d ever find negatives in my opinion. Again, it’s in knowing just a smidgen of her catalog and what she’s put out in the past myself that I can fully vouch for the fact that the Stephon Foster of today, couldn’t have put out tunes like these ones way back when she was first starting out – the writing & the confidence still needed time to evolve. Production is something that sorts itself out over time as well…I’ve got no problems saying she’s got a great idea in a tune like “Love Adrenaline” that just needs a bit more polish and attention to detail – I mean, heck – if you’ve read the latest review on the music of Ronald Williams at our pages, you know he just went through something exactly similar with his song “Finally” – and look at the incredible results he went on to there now! Sometimes we just gotta stand back and look at things the way they truly are, as objective as we can do it, as painful as that might be – but again, if you’re listening to these new singles side-by-side, I’m confident that we’d all come to the same conclusions. “Purple Sky” = nearly perfect & pretty much right where she’d want it to be – “Love Adrenaline” still needs some tinkering around with the get the most out of where she wants it to go in the results – but both solid ideas with multiple memorable moments & both great indications that Foster isn’t only making a comeback to the scene this year, but that’s she’s set to thrive like never before in what could very well be the most exciting chapter of her story so far.
Find Stephon Foster’s music at Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0mP01dHp8FdYVR5xcnmWSt
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