HYPNOS by Ravyn Lanae | Album Review
Reviewing the Chicago artist’s debut album
Having only a handful of EPs under her belt, Ravyn Lanae, with the release of her debut album looks to recapture an R&B sound of yesteryear with a modern infusion of neo-soul and R&B. Powered by production from Kaytranada, Steve Lacy, and Monte Booker, HYPNOS benefits from having a well-versed cast of Black contemporary artists including Smino and Fousheé along with the names previously mentioned. The range of genres throughout is impressive, touching on afrobeat, funk, neo-soul, electronic, R&B, and pop, each vignette crafted well within her best efforts.
The most significant takeaway from an artist like Ravyn Lanae is the vocal range as she sits consistently within a higher register and falsetto, absent of inconsistencies and wanders between salacious whispers and deep crooning choruses. With the sonic delivery echoing 90’s R&B stars, Lanae can remind the listener of an Ashanti voice with the delivery Sade or, as Pitchfork suggests — perhaps obligatorily as we reference 90’s R&B — Aaliyah. Nostalgic, right?
The beep-boop electronic nature of “Venom” makes it impossibly catchy and feels like the modern equivalent of Britney Spear’s, “Toxic”. The delicate nuance of typical Gen-Z experience is delivered in a medium an older generation would recognize, sometimes an implausible task, but ultimately reveals that the human struggle is nothing if not persistent. Relationships, lust, love, insecurity and more all make an appearance as we would expect, and while there aren’t any particular groundbreaking revelations, the medium it’s delivered makes it digestible for any listener.
It is evident that HYPNOS lacks the vocal versatility of her previous work, Crush EP, produced with Steve Lacy, and the eccentrics and nuance of that EP feels lost in translation. The funk element only comes makes an appearance in HYPNOS as it fades into oblivion after the intro track. Vocally, while the performance is quite solid and consistent, the experimentation with sound is lacking. We don’t see any break of form in tone or intonation, while impressive, can become redundant. “Cameo” feels like the only song with residuals from that EP as it does retain Steve Lacy production credits but only lasts a mere one and a half minutes.
It feels that Steve Lacy has the upperhand in the production for this album as the tracks he produced seem to be head and shoulders above the rest. At times, the production can seem clunky, absent of particular flow, and doesn’t complement what Lanae does best, which is exemplifying her vocal range through a plethora of different beat selections. Songs like “Light Me Up” have the potential to be great but settled for being just okay. The album as a whole seems to default to a higher register vocally and its best moments come when the artist strays away from it.
While this is the debut album from Ravyn Lanae, the search for her sound is still being conducted, as one would expect with a debut. I believe if the artist more closely aligned with the sound of the Crush EP, this album would’ve been even bigger than it was upon its release, deemed as Best New Music by Pitchfork.
Favorite Tracks: Cameo, Venom, Light Me Up