Regardless How You Feel, ‘if You Feel,’ You’ll Feel Xavier Omär’s New Album
Evan Dale // Nov 14, 2020
For nearly a decade, Xavier Omär has been a force of consistency in the changing of the guard for R&B music. In a lane historically dominated by hypersexualized antics, spells of predictably mainstream names leading a charge for shallow bouts of the romantically inclined but undedicated, and the most beautiful voices coming up short of saying enough, Omär is a key player in the evolution of R&B music to stand for something more. And as it hasn’t gone unnoticed, he hasn’t gone it alone. At the sonically diverse hands of a slew of modern artists like Omär – Daniel Caesar, Snoh Aalegra, Rayana Jay, Raveena, Brent Faiyaz – sensuality certainly isn’t something avoided in today’s most transcendent vocalists, but it isn’t the necessary foundational for all of their music, either. Long home to the most keynote voices in the modern sphere, R&B has now entered a second Golden Era defined not only by crystalline melody, but also by the virtue in words, ideas, and a grip on emotion so uniquely breathed into existence. With if You Feel, Omär leaves his latest stamp of timelessness in tone and in the tonal; perhaps his most powerful work to date.
Xavier Omär is a recently married man, and according to an interview with okayplayer, “if [his] marriage has done anything for [his] writing, at all, it’s probably in this project.” But it should be mentioned that, not unique alone to if You Feel, the San Antonio rooted, Georgia stationed son of an oft-in-motion military family, pens each of his soloist and collaborative works into an immersive diary entry. Writing is a skill he’s never been short of. His new position as a husband seems to have grated an even sharper edge to what was already an existing sword in lyrical wielding with particularly vulnerable tracks like ode to his wife, So Much More. But consistency in his writing aside, if You Feel is marked by a stark meandering of stylistic direction within R&B and in its adjacent hip-hop and pop spheres. To wit, the album is his least steady stream of sonic ideation, and in success, his most important and ultimately, lane-paving.
With if You Feel – in juxtaposition to last year’s Sango-produced tandem project, Moments Spent Loving You (though Sango has credits here, too), – Omär has successfully spun a thesis on R&B through the epochs, blurring with its emerging stylistic adjacencies, and webbing all of it together with the tenants that have driven his music from the beginning when he went by moniker, SPZRKT: delicate harmony, a well-addressed lyrical endowment, and a detour from the antiquated thematic pursuits of R&B’s past. And yet, if You Feel pays a strong homage to R&B’s past, while helping to curate its future.
Case and point: if You Feel’s Bregma-produced, KAYTRANADA reminiscent opener, FIND ME. From a ghostly sonic space bleeding of Xavier’s naked voice overtop an indefinable bit of sampling, swiftly emerges a thesis on club R&B that speaks to its multi-platinum producer and could have found a place in the Haiti-Montreal house enigma’s 2019 masterpiece, BUBBA. For so many reasons, it’s logical for Omär to begin in an electronically nuanced, heavily experimental arena that rings with crooning confidence and late-night dancefloor anthemics all the while bringing to mind the work he’s done with the DJ’s and producers like Sango in the past. But it’s not about the statement if You Feel’s opener sends; it’s about how the album evolves from its introductory exclamation point.
Finding calm in FIND ME’s transition thanks to a cooling outer moment, Xavier Omär’s deep dive into the vocally caressing ballad to come doesn’t feel harsh, albeit unexpected drawing water from the opening track’s house roots. Nonetheless, it’s a welcome change in pace for an artist eager to prove his insane range. A two-part composition, Something Changed begins as a classic broken-hearted R&B aesthetic and halfway through progresses into an exhibition of his oft-overlooked ability to weave raps into his work. Establishing himself a master of modern transcendentalism by the end of his new album’s second track, Xavier Omär has already granted a glimpse into his unique hold on three sonically diverse stylistic lanes.
And it only continues from there.
Building on a West Coast tradition spanning Nate Dogg to SiR, All Our Time is a modern R&B smoking-and-driving anthem that could soundtrack any kickback denoted by utter chill. want/need is a self-described and certified exploration of 90’s tenants. SURF – which features Masego – is expectedly hard to describe, and expectedly easy to listen to no matter what kind of music it is that a listener usually leans to. Protect is another hip-hop infused R&B anthem that serves as an ode to the change artists from Omär to Bryson Tiller have had on a scene ever evolving to swallow up its surrounding stylistic spheres. Bon Iverre is emotional perfection – simply human, simply beautiful. So is More Than Less. Lil Healer is a psychedelic exploration of emotion that defies genre and the past or the present altogether. And Like I Feel – which features Mereba – is a timeless Neo-Soul exploration infused with organic instrumentation and brimming with raw emotional relatability.
Through if You Feel, there is seemingly no R&B or R&B-adjacent lane – no R&B era – that Xavier Omär doesn’t touch. More than an artist, but clearly a deep-seeded student of music, he meanders wildly through epoch and stylistic evolution without ever losing way. Regardless whether you feel good or bad, high or low, social or introspective – if You Feel, then you’ll find something – somethings – to feel strongly about throughout Xavier Omär’s 2020 masterpiece.