Katy Schafer ‘18
Gospel and R&B, though two very different genres, can be beautiful when put together on one album. Not just anyone, though, can bring the two together and make 44 minutes and 47 seconds of songs worth listening to. To have a voice so soft yet powerful enough to inspire people and balance them in a way that could make falling in love seem easy is rare. Daniel Caesar knows gospel just as well as he knows R&B, and his ability to pursue an album that breaks the barrier between the two genres shows his talent as an artist. His album Freudian is the perfect example.
An aspiring artist from Toronto, Caesar dares to set himself apart from day-to-day R&B that Toronto is known for, otherwise known a “trap&B”, by blending smooth rhythms with life lessons of love and loss in an effortless fashion. Through growing up in the church, gospel has been rooted in his soul. Though many R&B artists have a background in the church, none of them have been brought in the influence as well as Caesar has. “(…) He doesn’t shy away from bringing the full range of his influences to his music,” says Biana Younger of pitchfork.com. By replacing harsh tones of typical R&B with piano, guitars, and melodies, Caesar makes the mixture of the genres seem easy.
The idea of love that Caesar sings about could make anyone believe in and want that feeling. On Hold Me Down, Caesar proves his knowledge for gospel music by adapting Kirk Franklin’s song “Hold Me Now” written in 1998 on the ways God offers help to those who need him. He puts a twist on the song, though, and uses his own lyrics to symbolize his potential to bring upbeat tones to gospel songs, both new and old. “I love the way that he uses all of his influences and uses them well, not just throws them together for a song that leaves me feeling confused rather than lovely,” said Lizzie Hiscock, a fan of Caesar since the release of his first song.
Though he has never worked with other artists to collaborate on a song, Caesar goes out of his comfort zone to experiment with melodies. You would never know that this was new to him, as each melody helps to build the song and the album into focus. Kali Uchis introduces soft tones on the album’s tribute to modern love, Get You. Syd and H.E.R. compliment each other with their futuristic and traditional voices respectively, each blending to Caesar’s deep, soulful tone. Another of the various stages of love is portrayed on We Find Love, “ the grand goodbye to the end of a courtship that wasn’t built to last,” as said by Yoh Phillips of DJBooth. The best way to attract listeners is to give them something they can relate to, and each of Caesar’s songs does this in a new way.
Towards the end of the album, Caesar gives us a look into his deeper R&B soul with Freudian, a peaceful, meaningful balid by expressing his own “life instinct” and “death instinct” that are represented in Sigmund Freud’s ideas as a psychologist. The root of the album comes from the creation and realization of these two instincts and how we balance them or fail to do so in everyday life.
On the other hand, Caesar’s distinct taste isn’t liked by everyone. Since he is so diverse from most everyday artists, some find it hard to like the way he mixes genres. The structure of Transform is very similar to the beginning of the album, and the beat of other songs on the album are borrowed from older songs. Though Caesar could have made his own beats but uses old ones instead, his creativity could be shown as lacking.
In the end, his love for music and his imagination are shown through the ways he blends the old sounds with new ones, and in the lyrics that leaves anyone with a view of love they had never known before.
Though there has been talk of another album from Caesar, he has yet to release new material. In the meantime, he is touring to perform and spread his gentle blend of R&B and gospel, warmth and depth, and love and destruction. Just as his voice builds from soulful to falsetto, his fan base builds upon itself and grows every day. Though they wait anxiously for another piece from him, Freudian has yet to disappoint, and continues to be enough for now.
Photo courtesy of The Guardian