Hop in to JVCK JAMES’ Sultry New Collection | The ‘JOYRIDE’ EP
Evan Dale // April 7, 2021
When the first music from JVCK JAMES surfaced in 2017, his effortlessly playful blend of a timeless R&B voice and an affinity for the modern, electro-pop nuance he folded into his production brought something entirely new not only to a UK Neo-Soul explosion very much alive as we write this in 2021, but to a greater R&B renaissance that seems still to be reaching every corner of the globe. The young vocalist and songwriter who calls home to East London boasts a sound as universal as any other from this generation of R&B dynamos. From the oft-acoustic emotionality of Daniel Caesar to the 90’s throwback aesthetics of Joyce Wrice, VanJess, and Devin Morrison, R&B has entered a new Golden Era, and JVCK JAMES – from 2017 to now – is very much an influential cornerstone to the moment and to the movement.
Speaking on the now, JVCK JAMES recently released his JOYRIDE EP. The 6-track project – his second behind 2019 debut collection, DETOUR – is, as he says, his ‘best work to date.’ It feels pretty undeniable to say so, as the London vocalist has spent much of his four-year limelight run largely outside of it altogether. A bit illusive, JVCK JAMES’ emergence has been defined by occasional singles that, though rare, have still successfully soundtracked everything that romance, sunsets, and beach vacations have touched along the way. It’s just something about his overarching auditory aesthetic that lends itself to white sand, umbrella drinks, and a loved one; something that reaches far from the wet grey of London.
But there is something, too, that lends itself endlessly to JAMES’ roots in the UK. A hotbed of R&B up-and-comers quickly turning global stars like Mahalia, Ella Mai, and JVCK JAMES himself, the British Neo-Soul-R&B spectrum is in constant production of sounds that stay true to the musical experimentalism of the UK, but also achieve a poppy, addicting sensitivity that takes the British sound around the world. For JVCK JAMES, JOYRIDE is a defining moment in that journey.
From the fluttery of sunshiny keys and deep bass that pry open the project at the onset of What You Want, there is an intangible reminiscence to something in JAMES’ aesthetic that we forgot. Immediately, his voice, too, enters frame, and that something becomes central. Since Extroverted Lovers & Easy found a way to indefinitely blend synth-laden electronic production, the heavy bass of hip-hop, and the timelessness of crystalline R&B vocalism four years ago, JVCK JAMES has been emerging R&B royalty – a prince who could maybe one day exist on the same plane as the SiR’s and the Caesar’s. JOYRIDE – from its very beginnings – is the project that finally makes that case an inevitable one.
Per his own humble words, the JOYRIDE EP is ‘R&B on steroids.’ And if we’re talking about R&B as it appeals to the masses and also to a mass of situational application, then it certainly is. It’s both R&B for the true R&B fans, and R&B for those that only know and love the scene’s most popular hits. And that’s not a slight towards JVCK JAMES himself. The project still bleeds with an experimental, risk-taking, and ultimately unique sound that no one before him has boasted, but it's also a collection of hits that could just as easily find their way to the most mainstream of radio stations as it does find its way to this lesser-known Neo-Soul blog.
Again, from the beginning, the JOYRIDE EP is dynamic, experimental, and yet oh, so very approachable. What You Want inescapably pulls memories of an early T-Pain into focus. From the bouncy, hi-fi production, to JAMES’s auto-tuned overdubs, it’s a reinvigoration of the fun-loving lessons that Epiphany taught a 2007 scene when it came to making music that could at one time be romantic, be sexy, and also be outrageously silly. No Drama – the EP’s leading single – takes the project in a direction worthy of after-hours at the club, brimming with a layered, textured beat, a steady danceable bassline, and silky pleads for its title. Basement is an immediate standout. A babymaker through and through, the EP’s third installment bleeds with sultry synth progressions and JAMES taking liberties with the highest end of his register’s reach. Joyride (ándale) is bound to be JAMES’ next radio hit. An anthemic, mellow jam that transcends R&B and Neo-Soul towards a larger pop sphere by way of its seamless, floaty production and repeatable chorus, we’ll all hear it everywhere soon. Getaway is gorgeously reminiscent of his early work, elevated by a productive bounce and complex vocal progressions that have always made R&B a jealousy inducing playground for the world’s most talented voices. And Roll It is JVCK JAMES’ most vulnerable, playful track to date. A stoner anthem for the sexy, it’s an experimentally explosive composition of R&B’s most mellow genius; it’s also the perfect way to close out the project.
In a year thus far overflowing with genial, experimental, and necessary projects from the most prominent of up-and-coming R&B royalty, JVCK JAMES’ JOYRIDE EP is at once an addition to the framework of what is looking like one of R&B’s best years in a while, while also existing as the project that every fan of JVCK JAMES from the beginning knew he was capable of delivering, and now finally has.