From Lucid Raveena Emerges a Feminine Symbol of Strength & Sexuality
Evan Dale // June 1, 2019
Self-love, feminine strength, sexuality, and spirituality delineate not only the direction of New York soulstress Raveena’s long-awaited debut album, Lucid, but also define the modern moment of neo-soul / R&B transcendentalism helping to usher in a new era of music and its role within sociocultural progression. And though nothing is quite surface level, nor has ever been with Raveena’s music, even a shallow look into her artistry reveals astonishing creativity and flourishing expressionism. Her music is gorgeous, rounded out by R&B sensuality, instrumental prowess, sensitivity, comfort, and musical nuances sourced from her South-Asian roots. And with such a diverse background and unique collection of artistic influence driving the flowing nature of her music, no one has ever sounded quite like Raveena. Though with the burgeoning influence she’s building on music’s future, artists across the neo-soul and R&B soundscapes are bound to be inspired by Raveena and Lucid for generations.
Raveena’s debut is, founded in the roots of her strong and lengthy pre-album canon, expectedly long. 12 tracks spanning 44 minutes deliver a well-rounded exploration into a mind bubbling over with music, nature, and philosophical stances. Yet, through the length, which while listening feels removed from time, only two leading singles are utilized: Stronger & Mama. This decision – really more of a feat – which should not be taken lightly considering the explosive popularity of so many singles omitted from Lucid’s finality, says a lot about Raveena’s work ethic and moral parallelism to perfecting her craft. Tracks like I Won’t Mind, Temptation, & Honey, though all smooth, experimental, and dynamic in their own rights, don’t quite fit the greater storyline and creative direction of Lucid. Neither do any selections from her 2017 debut EP, Shanti. Being a storyteller of vividness and flow, being a woman of growth and progression, Raveena moves forward without any of her music pre-2019. In result, she provides her listeners with eight brand new tracks to temper Stronger, Mama, an interlude, and a reprise to one of Lucid’s immediate standouts, Stone.
If one standout force drives Lucid thematically, it’s maternity. Mama, what was originally a Mother’s Day ode to Raveena’s mom, stands just as strong amidst Lucid as it did a single, exploring the strength of her immigrant mother while cherishing and celebrating immigrant mothers and maternal love at large. Lucid is also blessed with Nani’s Interlude, an emotional monologue on love, life, and death from another important figure in Raveena’s female lineage. Quips and quotes dot the rest of Lucid discussing motherhood in all its forms:
‘Meant to be a mother and a lover // But you wouldn't let me’ (Stronger)
‘I could surely provide//Mother earth in my thighs// Don’t you see My Honeybee// Searching forNectar, Affection & truth’ (Nectar)
The direct and obvious nods to maternity coincide with an overarching sense of comfortability, protection, and sensitivity that blankets Lucid in the warm, caring nature of Raveena’s one-of-a-kind artistic direction.
Maternity is paralleled by femininity throughout Lucid, continuing an exploration on feminine strength that has defined Raveena’s career from the very beginning. Where last year’s hit single and acclaimed video Honey, left off, exploring and celebrating culturalism, sexuality, femininity, and an openness to all, Lucid picks up, tackling a slew of modern sociocultural movements affecting her life directly: womanhood, sexuality, and minority perception around the world.
‘I was so naïve // To think a man could be // Stronger than me // I am stronger’ (Stronger).
Through it all, Raveena emerges a symbol of strength for the underrepresented communities of some of modernity’s most hot-button global issues, a leader for those that need love and support more than ever. And Lucid is her war cry: a gentle embrace of love and acceptance with a firm stance against bigotry and hate.
It’s not easy creating music that is so much bigger than itself. It’s even harder to do so while still creating such timeless, influential, and unique music. Lucid is velvety perfection for any fan of R&B and neo-soul’s long histories, driven by the same kind of floaty key and bass instrumentation made famous in the Motown era and forever immortalized by legends like Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell. That instrumental prowess coalesces with downtempo, minimal modern production to polish Raveena’s already crystalline vocals in an auditory amber worthy of her delivery and lyrical poeticism.
And all of that happens amidst one of the most socially powerful albums in memory – far removed from the realms of rock, hip-hop, and folk that usually call home to sociopolitical thematic explorations. The juxtaposition between gentleness and strength, between R&B and the sociocultural fight, between soul and political activism isn’t only refreshing, it’s altogether new and unexplored territory in a modern scene that prizes sexuality and romance in its vocally-driven musical lanes. And yet, Raveena refuses to abandon and quite arguably, explores the classic R&B and neo-soul lanes better than anyone else, approaching love, relationships, and sensuality from a relatable point of timid strength.
Lucid is an album of romance and sex just as it is an album of femininity and cultural progression without sacrificing musicianship or genuity in either direction. And that is the genius that Raveena – defined by her vivid descriptions of love and acceptance – has long been capable of and has now, with Lucid, cemented, inviting the future of R&B, neo-soul, music, and art at large to join her in the fight for unending quality and equality.