Why Sonder Son is the Throwback Album We All Need
I’m a 90s baby through and through. Born in the 90s, have some of my fondest memories in the 90s and appreciate most things musical (and otherwise) from that decade. I often find myself listening to some of my favourite artists from the 90s and early 00s thinking how sick it would have been to hear something like Jodeci & Tupac ‘How Do You Want It’ in the club whilst securing a whine from someone that looks like Hilary Banks (The Original Bad & Boujee) while simultaneously popping numerous bottles of Cristal with some of your tightest bredrins… ah, if Carlsberg did throwbacks.
With the scene set and ones relationship with 90s/early 00s music and culture (namely Hip Hop and RnB) contextualised, I can explain the reason for my affinity to this project and what, for me anyway, it accomplished. In the 90s and early 00s we were spoilt for choice when it came to unique male vocalists- R.Kelly, KC & JoJo, Jase4Real (of Soul For Real), Sisqo (of Dru Hill), Slim (of 112), Marques Houston (as part of Immortal), Jon B, Usher, Ginuwine… the list is honestly endless. In recent times, we’ve been treated to many incarnations of some of these artists styles but none have sounded as authentically intwined with those times as Brent Faiyaz.
Enter Sonder Son. For fans and followers of Brent Faiyaz as a solo artist and as part of Sonder, you may have been patiently waiting for this album to drop – especially after Sonder’s episode on Soulection Radio a couple months back. And it’s with this episode, that things start to click into place for the direction of the then forthcoming debut album. Littered with songs from the 90s, some well known and some slightly more obscure but nonetheless unapologetically nostalgic. A feeling of nostalgia that Brent and his team were keen to reflect in this project. Like his 2016 EP ‘A.M. Paradox’, the central themes of youth, women and love all remain but this seems to be a very personal dichotomy of the aforementioned and tales of the come up, trying to do right and the wrongs of the past.
Songs like ‘Home’, ‘Gang Over Luv’ ‘First World Promblemz’ and ‘L.A’ are all great songs and all show Brent’s exceptional talent and dexterity but aren’t the main reason I’m writing this article. The reason I’m writing this article is because of ‘Missin Out’, ‘Stay Down’ and ‘Talk 2 U’. All of these songs are unapologetically throwbackish and instead of them being a corny ill informed attempt at recreating the past, they’re as welcome as a Trump impeachment would be. To add a bit of structure to this mind dump, I’m going to tackle each of the throwbackish songs and give my take on them (cos I’m nice like that).
This is sort of like a one man Sexy You (Interlude) Minimalist, yet emotionally effective with stripped production and a calm considered vocal performance[lesson] by Brent – vivid lyrics that help paint the picture:
I ain’t got no plans for the weekend
Don’t know what you was thinking
But I don’t got no drinks for drinking
I got some weed for smoking
And I got some songs for listening
No I don’t got work in the morning
Shit you don’t know what you’re missing
90s RnB is a relatively simple combination of storytelling and melodies – both of which Brent conveys in this song. This song is so great because it’s so stripped down and simple. Brent takes us on a journey through his use of unbelievable harmonies and hones in on a few of the vices that young people use in a social setting to entice interaction with people they wanna knock boots with! Drizzy once said “weed and alcohol seem to satisfy us all” and we all succumb to the highs or fun we get from dabbling, so see this song as a 2017 exposé into the lives of young people and how get down!
Aside from another song that we’ll get into a bit late, Stay Down is undoubtably influenced in it’s entirety by the 90’s:
Call me, I’ll be right there (I’ll be there, girl, stay right there)
Tell me if you gonna stay down (Will you stay down?)
I’ll be waiting night and day (I’ll be waiting night and day)
But only if you gonna stay down (stay down, stay down)
This song is a cocktail of 112 type vocals with a Maria, Maria Carlos Santana Spanish guitar playing throughout the track. The adlibing at the beginning is almost Usher esq., as are the pre-chorus and chorus also synonymous with the gold age of RnB. Being ‘down’ for someone is a phrase that I closely associate both in music and television – I don’t know why, but I always think about programs like Moesha when I hear that word – and Brent continues to draw on that nostalgic feeling running throughout the album on this centrepiece! In many an interview he’s cited an obsession with old RnB and Soul and Stay Down is probably the second most throwbacky song on this album… behind….
Talk 2 U:
Again, Spanish guitar and adlib heavy, Talk 2 U is one of my personal highlights of the album and perfectly demonstrates the uncanny similarities with Brent and some of the best RnB artists of the 90s and 00s.
Truth is, I came to know ya
Don’t give a damn about the things they told ya
‘Cause they don’t have a clue
But they don’t read you like I do
Although it’s just a few minutes long, Brent is able to execute one of the best attempt of a throwback that I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. Usually when artist try and fail at it, it’s because either the executions is off or the end product comes across as corny. What Brent excels at on this tune is bringing a mix of catchy lyrics, an addictive beat and the same feeling you had when you first heard U Remind Me or Rendezvous – both of which this song draws a striking resemblance to. It almost sounds like a new RnB band, from the past have been transported to the present day and decided to drop their newest single and that’s down the Brent’s unquestionable talent and ability to draw cadences and influences of the past and present them in a way that is palatable to present day ears!