2021 • POP/R&B • ATLANTIC
BEST NEW MUSIC
British singer Laura Mvula’s third studio album is the best of her career. Bright and colorful songs explode in lust for sensuality as she also becomes a more aware person about herself and those around her.
Laura Mvula wanted her third album to be sexy. “I wanted it to be. I needed it to be,” she told Apple Music. For Mvula, her first two albums, 2013’s Sing to the Moon and 2016’s The Dreaming Room, grew out of a desire to take music seriously, but perhaps too seriously. “I had gotten so comfortable with everything being so focused on the music as its own thing, and somehow I was sort of separate from that. This time I wanted to be front and center,” she completed. Pink Noise is the result of that, the project where she allowed herself to “paint using more colors than perhaps I let myself use before.”
Pink Noise is Mvula’s best album. It is a nostalgic journey into the brilliant and glorious past of the 1980s. With a precise and spaced production, unlike anything Laura has done so far, the album delivers one hit after another. They are brilliant and spontaneous songs that are born from Laura’s intriguing desire to have fun, however, she never gives up working on other subjects while dancing, crying, or thinking too much. They are also visual tracks that manage to show neon colors of pink and bright blue, or even Mvula on a bright stage singing a timeless R&B anthem. The most ironic thing is that nothing seems complicated or that it took a lot to reach this state of excellence. Pink Noise is an album that was born great.
The production and sound of the album is his strongest point. The most amazing thing, however, is how the synthesizers, the strings, and the percussions are simple and very spaced as if they were far apart, but in the end, they magically come together to create this magical, brilliant, and very catchy sound. I think that’s clear in the first few seconds of the opener, “Safe Passage,” where she sings about leaving a bad past behind and moving on to a better place. In the beginning, strong synth beats appear and soon after are accompanied by Mvula’s voice. They both sound far apart but you can easily feel a chemical atmosphere between them. Over time, the track will get stronger, bright strings appear followed by choirs. However, nothing seems to get in front of the other, everything seems well-coordinated and acting independently to create this stunning opening song.
And luckily, in no time the album lacks an amazing and impressive or, at least, danceable production. The title track, for example, features a reverberant bass, visual synthesizers, and homogeneous drums. In the chorus, confetti seems to fall to the ground. Mvula, accompanied by her band that also occasionally plays trombone, sings, “I know that you feel it/And you can’t deny it.” “What Matters,” a collaboration with Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil, is a well-balanced duet. Neil completes Mvula perfectly as they sing about this conflicted love story. The funniest thing, however, is how Neil’s voice is treated with various effects, but it doesn’t sound detrimental or awkward at all. Finally, “Got Me” is the pure definition of R&B. It’s a banger.
However, it’s not just the sound part that Laura delivers a full package. Her composition is also something that shines too. Again, the most curious thing is the simplicity. It doesn’t need long verses full of metaphors, but rather a few words to charm the listener with something that sounds purposefully raw but starkly honest. With differentiated strings, “Remedy” appears as a cry for help and indignation. She sings about the murders of black people and the protests that took over last year. “How many more must die?/Before the remedy,” she sings in the chorus and then adds, “You surround me with guns at every turn/See the system is rigged to shoot me first.” But more than ever, she looks at herself too. In “Church Girl” she asks herself, “How can you dance with the devil on your back?/How can you move?/Caught up in a picture-perfect/That will never last.” But, as a relief, the final track comes to say, “Remember the night comes before the dawn,” after she confesses, “All I wanted was to feel love/Something I never knew the meaning of.”
However, the best song on the record is “Magical.” In a cheap pun, this track is simply magic. Mvula’s production goes insane here, her composition goes insane here, her flow, her rhythm, her look, and her vocals. It’s a grand, brilliant track that sounds like a timeless anthem that would easily become a landmark song for a whole generation of songwriters and producers. On the hook, when all the instruments come together, Laura appears on top of a stage performing a great show, Broadway-level. Everything is bright and colorful and she, with her soft, sweet vocals, seems to melt away as the track progresses. “Do you remember?/The time when we were together/It seemed like something was magic/Never imagined it would be over,” she sings. It’s not only the best song on the album, it’s also easily one of the best of the year.
However, in a way, you still wish Mvula would loosen up even more than she did here. “Conditional,” for example, has a really good chorus but it feels a little disconnected from the rest of the track. “Golden Ashes,” meanwhile, despite having excellent vocal work, both Mvula and the backing vocals, and having this lyric about suffering and not letting yourself down, you still feel like it could have gone a little wilder on it. Even “What Matters,” perhaps, Neil could have had a more present role on the track than he did. “Magical,” on the other hand, could never have ended. Damn, this song is so fucking good.