AUDIOJUNKIE: Room to groove, soul to spare

Published September 19, 2020, 9:08 AM

by Punch Liwanag

In the world of pop music, when you’re good, people will know about it.

Arthur Nery didn’t need to go mainstream to get noticed. He just needed to stick to his guns.

Sure enough, the Cagayan De Oro-native is steadily building a name for himself in his chosen niche. 

Nery released his full-length album back in 2019 under OC Records. Back then, those who heard his songs knew simply he was good. 

Fast forward to 2020 and Nery is now the most streamed local artist you’ve never heard about.

And this happened on the strength of the wonderfully chill “Higa” — a slow burn love song noted for its cool tones and relaxed vibe. 

Since it’s release last year, the song is now well on its way to 10 million streams. 

And all this happened below the radar. No fanfare, just by word of mouth — which is the best thing that could ever happen to a budding artist. 

Nery’s 10-track album also included “Binhi” which features more of Nery’s cool singing.

That spot-on falsetto, and the too-cool neo soul vibes of his arrangements that come complete with stabs of bluesy fills in between sparse instrumentation.

Why are we talking about Nery’s output from a year ago you ask? 

Well, because it’s only now that listeners are catching on to his brilliance. And it’s the kind that seems to quietly glisten without anybody ever noticing until they’re already basking in its light.

Anyway, another OC Records artist to watch out for is solo singer Cean, Jr. 

His new single “Cold2Gold” is rooted on R&B but, much like Nery’s style, puts its emphasis on the relaxed vibe of its arrangements. 

Cean, Jr is the kind of  singer that would usually get featured on any rapper’s album, because he’s just good at bringing the hook. 

“Cold2Gold” by any means is a simple song arrangement-wise, but on top of the dreamy synths, and the driving, mid-tempo beats is Cean Jr’s straight forward, R&B rooted singing. 

Hearing him sing, recalls the style of Just Hush (check out CJ’s 2019 track “Binibini”). Which is to say that these dudes – Arthur Nery, Cean, Jr., are cut in the same cloth. Delivering their chill vibe melodicism and soul to the fore.

And since we’re in the topic of R&B and its permutations, two giants in the genre returned 
and released new singles. 

One is global music superstar, singer-songwriter and pianist Alicia Keys who released a new single entitled “Love Looks Better.” 

The track naturally features Alicia’s onmi-present uh, keys. And that four-note intro piano riff seems to give a nod to a 2009 Adele song  (“Hometown Glory”) but diverges quick enough to make its own mark. 

Released on the anniversary of 9/11, the track, is an anthemic sounding song with timely themes. 

In a press release, Keys said “the song has such an energy. It talks about how busy we’ve become, how fast we got used to moving.” 

And then the pandemic hit and the world literally ground to a halt. 

Keys added: “And now we realize that my love looks better on you. It’s time to really be present for each other. It feels like something we can all understand now.”  

The song is produced by Ryan Tedder (of One Republic, remember them?) 

Usher also returns with a new dance inflected R&B tune entitled “Bad Habits.” 

The song is the follow up to the singer’s recent R&B chart topper (“Don’t Waste My Time”). 

Good ‘ol Usher is up to his usual themes again—doing his woman wrong, as he sings “I 
had way too many one nights / I keep messin’ my love life / Every time I think that I found the one / I turn around and then another one come.” Hence, “Bad Habits.”

But to really appreciate the new Usher song, it’s best that you watch the new music video that accompanied the song’s release. 

At 41, Usher can still move like only he can. Nothing Earth-shaking in terms of choreography, but Usher is the only one who can say “sorry” in so many moves and look good doing it.

 
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