I’m sitting on my humble balcony, twenty stories above the city. My back leant up against the West wall, my knees bent, and my feet planted firmly on the wall opposite. I’m rooted. A tropical storm is rolling through for the next several days and the sounds of rainfall and rustling treetops overpower the usual hum of traffic and construction. A rare atmosphere of acoustic peace and mental escape brought me out here, but an even more rare atmosphere of acoustic bliss and mental nirvana keeps me. The stereo is on and turned up too loudly. Out of it pours an artist’s soul and the introduction to his strongest project to date.
Nobody ever ventures onto the neighboring balconies so there is no one to bother. I turn it up louder and immerse myself in the music. A familiar song starts to fill the space and ventures out into the rain clouds to my left. I look forward to what’s to come.
I always appreciate the notion of artists opening an album with a hit single if they were lucky enough to have one. But it can also be a concern. It can be seen either as a sign of weakness or strength as to what follows. It can be meant to overhype an album with momentum that it is unable to maintain, or it can be meant as a warm, familiar welcome into a home that lives up to and perhaps even surpasses its illustrious entryway. In this case, the entryway is carved of marble and the home, hewn of the same.
I’ll cut the literary bullshit now and tell you that I am listening to Freudian – Daniel Caesar’s new album. I’ll also tell you with true confidence, that it’s not only one of the best projects to come out this year, but one of the best albums of any genre in recent memory. For those of you familiar with the R&B scene, you have most likely been exposed to Get You – Freudian’s opener and Daniel Caesar’s latest hit that like several others before it, has continued Caesar’s growth and steady climb within the genre as well as music as a whole.
For any fan of Daniel Caesar or anyone who while reading this is listening for the first time, his distinctive, beautifully imperfect voice is what strikes first. Similar to Miguel in his ability to express emotion and pain through cracks and breaks in his delivery, his vocal talent is something that cannot be taught or perfected. In fact, it can probably not truly be harnessed and these moments of vocal strain which so thoroughly express pain are more than likely unintentional, making them all the more powerful. His poetic lyricism is on par with artists like BJ the Chicago Kid, his emotional delivery similar to that of Frank Ocean, and his unique production is at least equal to the other leaders of his craft – inspired by, and living up to the Rhythm and Blues behemoth that is Toronto.
It was in the early months of 2015 that I came across Violet – the first Daniel Caesar song I heard. Inspired and provoked, I immediately dug up as much more of his music that I could find. There wasn’t much back then, but I listened religiously. For those interested: Violet, his cover of James Blake’s Scream, and to this day one of my favorites – his cover of J.V. McMorrow’s Cavalier (Caesar’s titled: Chevalier) remain three excellent pieces to his canon that providing a glimpse into the raw talent that is now delivering him to stardom. Listening to them now is like listening to House of Balloons after The Weeknd’s 2013 release of Kiss Land and his imminent fame.
Daniel Caesar truly opened his career with his first project Pilgrim’s Paradise in the Fall of 2015. A phenomenal and wide-ranged production, it provided Caesar with more recognition and a further reach than ever before. His growth continued but he remained largely unnoticed and underrated – only causing stir in deep R&B circles. Single after single including Won’t Live Here, Get You – now the introduction to Freudian, and Japanese Denim along with incredible and underrated collaborations – the best and most interesting of which is West – a single from his work with River Tiber, Caesar’s ever-growing audience was left thirsty for more music. As part of that audience, I continued to listen religiously and was always anxiously awaiting an album – the kind of album that launches artists into that next level – and the kind of album that Caesar’s uniqueness and talent could deliver.
Freudian, my friends, is that album.
We have reached a new era in R&B – and just as genres are always doing, it continues to evolve and adjust with every new artist and every new release. The genre has been significantly influenced by the return of electronic vocal production that just a decade ago was laughed out of the scene after a long run of T-Pain-esque popularity. The genre has also seen another shift towards the roots of R&B where pure vocals, simple production, and of course provocative lyricism are reminiscent of Marvin Gaye and other Motown Era artists. Daniel Caesar not only falls into the latter category, but is emerging as perhaps its leader.
Freudian is not a collection of songs. It is a love story – a relatable and true one at that. I refuse to go into specifics of what I think individual songs or the album means as a whole. It is not my right to make decisions for Daniel Caesar or for his audience, but I can tell you that Freudian means big things for Caesar and his future. I can also tell you that I recommend a chilled bottle of sauvignon blanc stretched out over its 44 minutes for best results. If you’re more of a red drinker, a beer drinker, or a non-drinker, I assure you it is still worth your time. Freudian relates to the human heart. It can be danced to or cried to. It can also be dissected and each song listened to individually. It is truly a work of musical genius that will catapult Daniel Caesar to where he belongs – the top.
I understand your doubts. In the last seven paragraphs I have compared Daniel Caesar to Miguel, BJ the Chicago Kid, Frank Ocean, and The Weeknd. These are some of the most influential R&B artists not only of the last decade, but quite frankly, ever. I’m not saying that Daniel Caesar is one of these artists but I am saying that he will be. Alongside talents like SiR, DVSN, and undoubtedly others we are yet to recognize, a new wave of incredibly talented R&B artists has arrived and with the release of Freudian, Daniel Caesar is here to stay as one of the best among them. He has the power to become the next R&B generation’s leader, and you might just one day find yourself a fan in his immense empire. Hail, Caesar.