JMSN's Vast Velvet is a Spiritual, Sexual, Epochal Thesis on Music & Sensitivity
Evan Dale // Sep 27, 2018
Every now and then, an album comes along that plays its part in redefining music at a macro level. There’s no way of knowing when these projects will come or where they’ll come from. They could be the result of an established hand – the long-awaited masterpiece to define a legendary career, like Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On; the only project an artist ever delivers – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill; a debut that kickstarts a memorable path – Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon; the kind of project that redefines an artist’s direction and subsequently unleashes a movement, like D’Angelo’s Black Messiah and its effect on the course of modern transcendental soul.
These projects are institutions – firestarters of some of recent history’s most important musical moments.
But, when it’s all said and done, the unpredictability that accompanies history’s most defining and redefining projects is in itself a key element to their supremacy and timelessness. The most important projects of all time have been so brash, so boldly experimental, and yet so definitively aware of music’s past and present, while so uncannily predictive (and influential) of its future, that they remain always in tune.
We’re fortunate enough to be in the midst of one of these monumental moments that may very well change music for generations to come. It’s smooth, it’s soft, and it’s oh so retro. It’s Velvet, and it comes to us by way of R&B’s left-of-center bad boy, JMSN.
To say that Velvet is a work of true JMSN fashion is somewhat of a malapropism for an artist whose sound has never found and likely never will find a cemented form. Like any true artist, JMSN is always growing and adjusting, and being a particularly truthful artist with a particularly deep canon, his changes are many, obvious, and necessary.
The Detroit native has, from 2012 with the release of his debut album Priscilla, been a product of his sonic environment, rooted in the illustrious past of his hometown. And yet through his funk-centered instrumentation neo-soul exploration, and unmistakable voice, he has molded and mastered a take on modern R&B all his own. With Velvet, a keystone project not only to his own career, but also to 2018 – also to neo-soul, funk, and R&B’s explosive developments – eras, epochs, stylings, and genres will look to JMSN’s 2018 redefining indefinability as a way of defining themselves. And for that, it is a masterpiece.
As cliché as it is, Velvet is expectedly unexpected, but that’s where we’re at with it.
At its core however, musical elements are expected and present. JMSN’s pristine vocals are powerfully in check. His knack for weaving complex motifs and capturing storytelling drive the album from start to finish and grant it its necessary breath of emotional relatability – particularly addressing romance and sex. Funk lays Velvet’s fluid foundation and waves of heart crushing vocal explosions tear down its walls. In these ways, it’s sonically reminiscent – and undeniably so – of his previous work.
But in every other way, it is wildly inventive and experimental, even for an artist whose career has been defined by those adjectives. In every other way, Velvet is raw, sultry, and straightforwardly sexual while somehow not engaging the unnecessarily graphic route of his peers. It is rooted in hyper-sexuality, yet approachable. Not only instructional with the lights off, but danceable with the lights on.
Equal parts R&B, neo-soul, funk. All parts peak JMSN.
It’s the kind of project so liquid in its form between a series of classic and current classification that it is able to act as bridge between stylings, audiences, and situational application – all of which over the past few years have become more prominent and important on music’s main stage. Fans of Golden Era R&B will find themselves at home in JMSN’s vocal layering and occasional self-conversation that though would be over-the-top in the hands of any other artist, simply help to propel the momentum of Velvetforward (Pose). Listeners with an ear tuned for neo-soul will appreciate the balance JMSN strikes between that audacious R&B movement and the maturity and understanding of modern lyricism and production (Levy). A funk audience will be brought to their feet by the JMSN’s insatiable guitar and his band’s accompanying instrumentation (Got 2 B Erotic). The same can be said about fans of an 80’s auditory aesthetic (Mind Playin’ Tricks). A Motown audience will undoubtedly hear Detroitin his classic sound (Inferno).
All the while, it’s primed for listeners looking for sonic sex (So Badly), for romance (Sunshine), for relatability in heartbreak and the misunderstandings of relationships (Explicit). It’s perfect for a night out dancing with friends (Drama), or a night in with only a bottle of wine by your side (Talk Is Cheap). It’s anthemic for listeners young and old, encapsulating and vast in its thematic exploration. It’s just damn good, emotionally-evoking yet inviting music. From the ground up, it’s the creation of masterful artists who understand the balance between experimentation and respect. The entire project is a risk on many levels, but never comes up short.
Coming in at an hour, there is simply something in it for everyone who has an appreciation for the sonically emotional and romantically explosive. But past its wide-ranging approachability and undeniable likeability, it is such a different project than anything to come out in recent memory, while still somehow so in tune with modern music and its future directions. It will become a staple to many.
There has always been something relatable about JMSN, so brash and unpredictable about his sound. Velvet takes all that he has learned from his long career, blends in all of his influences past and present, and builds upon that foundation a perfect album. Sonically, emotionally, situationally JMSN’s Velvet is more than his keystone project – it’s one of modern music’s, able to inspire and define a series of movements to come.