Victoria Monét Saved the Best Songs for Herself

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Her auteurist vision comes fully into focus on JAGUAR, with the title track as her crowning achievement.
Photo: Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images

Pop has been on a revivalist tear. Dua Lipa is bringing disco back, DaBaby and Megan Thee Stallion flow with the bravado of raunchy ’90s rap, Rina Sawayama is even nostalgic for nu-metal. So Victoria Monét’s debut “project” JAGUAR comes at the perfect time, with the songwriter and performer turning her ear toward the ’70s: funk, disco, classic R&B, all of it. It’s a shocking shift from Monét, who nabbed two No. 1 hits and an Album of the Year Grammy nomination thanks to her co-writing work on Ariana Grande’s trap record thank u, next, most notably “7 Rings.” But for JAGUAR, Monét brought in a live band, inspired by the instrumentations of classic Motown, specifically Smokey Robinson. “He was a songwriter and an artist at the same time, and equally as great,” she told Paper. “And that’s what I really want for myself.” Her auteurist vision comes fully into focus on JAGUAR, with the title track as her crowning achievement.

The singles that preceded JAGUAR showed the range of what Monét could do. There was the soulful flex “Ass Like That,” the grand and declarative ballad “Moment,” the groovy sex anthem “Dive,” the shimmering disco cut “Experience.” When each came out, you could’ve made the case that it was among Monét’s best work, if not a personal best. “Jaguar,” then, sounds like a synthesis of Monét’s best qualities across those tracks. She opens by drawing out the syncopated chorus in her breathy, tender voice, but it’s a fake out — this one’s a bop, through and through. The hi-hat comes in, then some gurgles of drums and synths, as producer D’Mile builds the track piece by piece, right in your ears. Monét wanted the song to express her vision down to an elemental level, specifically seeking out a Black performer to play the horn part she and D’Mile had in their heads. The live instruments sound even more precise than the bare beats of songs like “7 Rings” and “Monopoly,” and balanced by one of Monét’s most confident vocal performances.

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