In the midst of a packed week of music releases, a name was being mentioned more often than
normal. Elaine. As an independent artist, with the help of her manager and friend – she’s
managed to accumulate 2.5 million streams on music streaming platform for her debut EP,
Elements. All her analytics point towards a real fan base developing at a very rapid pace.
As a sceptic and maybe a hater, if I didn’t know her personally, I would have been very
confused. I would’ve attributed her rollout and the amount of support she received, to a label. I
would have attributed her social media engagement to paid Twitter. If there’s anything you
should know about the music industry, it’s very much analytics based. To achieve her numbers,
you’d often have to be a well-cemented star with a large fan base on a good label. It’s not very
plausible to achieve what she has. It’s very rare. In the words of Meek Mill, “There’s levels to
this shit, young boy”. Yet, she’s somehow managed to skip over “upcomers”, the “underground
scene” and quite frankly, being mainstream. She’s on some superstar shit.
And I personally attribute that to two things:
1. The Power of the internet. The internet has changed the people perform activities. It’s
changed how we consume music and ultimately, if you learn how to use it to your benefit, your
likely to see growth.
2. Good music spreads. I’m not saying that you’ll also get 2.5 million streams but if there’s
something I’ve noticed about the industry – if the music is good, it will be shared. Nothing beats
organic growth; it’s how you build a solid and real fan base. She grew because people related
and enjoyed it enough to share it.
How good is it? Well, I’ll break it down for you.
Elements starts off with “Say It”. Soulful vocal chords are distorted and slowed down. The
chord’s act as the production’s lead melody. After a short period, the melody is joined by sultry
and slick drums alongside the introduction of a female lead singer. Her voice sounds crystal
clear. Her vocal tonality is exceptional. She’s hitting every single falsetto. She sounds perfect for
the production. While I’d love for her to unpack lyrically, this is still good songwriting. It’s easy to
remember, easy to sing along with and ultimately, very relatable. I’m quite impressed with the
production and her vocals. This is a good introduction into the project.
The production transitions smoothly into “When We’re Alone”. The production is insane. R&B is
in a different place, but if you listen to this song, you’ll know R&B is still very soulful – just using
different elements to create the same feeling. The production uses intricate 808s as the melody
basis, accompanied by cool hi-hats and kicks. It reminds me of Aaliyah’s “Try Again”. The
production lays a great foundation for Elaine to shine. Often enough, people compare modern
R&B to older generations and claim how new age R&B singers can’t sing as impressively. While
that may be true, for female singers to differentiate themselves in today’s age, it’s almost
imperative to be a great songwriter. It’s what separates SZA, H.E.R, Summer Walker, Jhene Aikho
and so many others. Luckily for Elaine, she’s an equally incredible songwriter and vocalist. While
remaining comfortable in her vocal register, she manages to create plenty of vocal inflections. At
times, she throws in short high-pitched runs and falsettos. She’s honestly flexing vocally.
Accompanied by her vocal layers and harmonies, it sounds angelic.
“This is what it looks. This is love in its purest form. And this is what it feels like (yeah), and this
is what is sounds like”.
What separates good musicians from great musicians is how convincing and plausible their
lyrics are. The production and manner in which she sings? I believe every word.
Thereafter, a dramatic piano melody is hard. “I/You”. The melody creates a sense of melancholy
through the use of minor chords. The dissonance is resolved by introducing drums alongside
beautiful major chords. To be honest, this song doesn’t appeal to me. Primarily due to the style
and feelings it evokes. However, I can definitely acknowledge Elaine’s solid vocal performance
and again, her pen. She has a great understanding of music. She knows how to approach
rhythm pockets. For example, as the chorus is introduced alongside drum patterns, she inserts a
rhythmic motive in-between hard 808s. Thereafter, the melody is added onto, to create a dope
melodic sequence. The chorus is effective. It’s easy to listen to and remember. Her music is very
relatable. To make things better, Elaine’s writing allows you to experience every feeling she
carries because of her cadence choices and her focus on details.
This song doesn’t really need an introduction. Her chart-topping hit, “You’re the One”. While the entire project is mixed and mastered perfectly, this is the biggest indication. Her vocals are audible although the production’s hollow effects could have easily swallowed her sound. While she glides on the production and sounds alluring, she remains in a comfortable vocal range. She could’ve delivered greater vocal runs and inflections. However, her delivery and lyricism make up for it. Elaine’s writing is intricate. It’s hard to differentiate love songs due to similarity in messages. However, her writing comes from a unique and original perspective. It allows her to be relatable while she details her personal occurrences. It’s a truly enjoyable song.
“Changes”. The production is exquisite. It makes me think of Drake, whenever he’s produced by 40. It gives me that feeling. Elaine takes a different approach than before. She uses a singer/rapper flow. Something which 6lack, Drake and so many others have perfected. She’s clearly been taking notes because her cadence is well-suited for the instrumental and her delivery is fluid. She bodied the flow. She kills rhythmic pockets with ease. Aside from great vocals, she brings across lyrical depth. I need more of this. This is fire.
“I owe you so much more than my pain. I owe you so much more than my past. You deserve it all, you deserve it all, you deserve it all.”
Subsequently, “I Just Wanna Know” follows. A gorgeous guitar riff begins the song. Shortly after, Elaine enters. The riff is joined by dope drums, highlighted by throbbing 808s and kicks. The song sees Elaine questions her relationship and the parameters of it. She sounds beautiful. Using a soft timbre and smooth runs, she bends notes and sounds heavenly. I can hear the emotion behind her voice. This is soul. This is what modern R&B lacks. Artistry and creative freedom take over, as a jazz-inspired piano outro is added towards the end of the song. Elaine’s vocal layering creates sumptuous harmonies. The song is well-thought of, constructed and arranged. It is also well-executed. This is ideally the best fit for the last song on the project.
However, Elaine felt differently and instead, the closing song is “Risky”. The production is within similar sonic realms as “You’re the One”. The song details Elaine’s relationship, its potential fallout alongside the pain caused due to the fallout. The production is too simplistic and to be honest, a little unimaginative. While her vocal performance is always consistent and solid, Elaine could’ve also used melodies better to create a more enticing song. To be honest, this song could’ve been better executed. It’s just mid.
Elements is a great project. At 7 songs in length, with 6 being quite enjoyable, it definitely warrants every bit of support it has received. Elaine’s managed to execute an exceptional concept of high difficulty. Elements essentially navigates how to communicate through love languages. The project provides a sense of lyrical depth alongside beautiful melodies and harmonies. The project is quite cohesive and exhibits her strengths as a vocalist and artist but ultimately, it differentiates her due to elite song-writing. While the project may take inspiration
from a few modern and old R&B singers, Elaine manages to create her own sound. A slight change in ordering could’ve made the project even better but nonetheless, Elements is an alluring project filled with plenty of replay value.
Written & edited by: Dithekgo Mogadime | Twitter - @Dithekgom