Sophie Dishman

Review: Seinabo Sey – Pretend

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Seinabo Sey performing live on stage at Scala on May 20, 2015 in London, Picture by: Katja Ogrin/EMPICS Entertainment

Seinabo Sey performing live on stage at Scala on May 20, 2015 in London, Picture by: Katja Ogrin/EMPICS Entertainment

Seinabo Sey is a Swedish artist who is by no means unknown in the experimental-pop world of music. Her debut album ‘Pretend’ was released on October 23 this year and it has already made its mark as a success. With her recent Soul/RnB artist of the year win at the Kingsize Awards, Sey is no longer pretending, she is here to stay.

The album begins with ‘Younger’ – a pop-soul fuelled song. The song’s message is irrevocably leading the listener to remember that they aren’t “getting any younger”. A stark reminder for the younger generation. The experimental sound of Sey comes through with a mix of auto-tuning and her soulful voice blending together. There is a surprise at the beginning, but you’ll have to listen to find out!

‘Who’ also talks to the listener as phrases and questions are repeated. The slapstick beat doesn’t match the lyrics giving us a seemingly different sound throughout. The song is a highlight of the album as it encapsulates experimentation. Sey is exploring with this song and ultimately the album so far.

‘Pretend’ is the headline song of the album. Admittedly, having never heard of Sey, the song is recognisable. She has been experimenting with us under our noses! This is an eclectic song, with the beat carrying the listener throughout the song – gospel echoes beckon throughout. It was hard not to sing along with Sey as her soulful voice hypnotises us yet again. It’s a perfect name for her debut album and sets up the rest of the songs with a bang. She subtly asks the listener – “So far, so good” – a thumbs up from the listener this early in the album is a good sign Sey!

The beginning of ‘Poet’ starts like others on this album – an instrumental concoction, followed by Sey’s hedonistic voice. Now listeners have got the jist of her voice they can listen to the lyrics. The song is cleverly done and the listener may think they have heard the song before. She does sound familiar but that may be because she can be likened to Jessie Ware, in my opinion.

‘Easy’ starts with a long introduction – a bit different to the other songs on the album. The thumping base beat comes in and we are back to where the album started. A pop beat with Sey’s powerful sound. The beat put together with the lyrics makes the song addictive. As we get into the song – it stops and we are brought to the sixth track ‘Words’.

Violins feature heavily in this track with rather interesting lyrics, I may add! The piano behind infuses the song giving it a club-like feel. This unique song mellows you out and almost feels like the stereotypical chill-out track.

Sey likes to shake her sound up affirming the experimental nature of her songs. ‘Sorry’ is a ballad and one of the striking songs on the album. Sey’s voice changes dramatically as we get to hear her vocal range from start to finish. It is a large shift from the previous songs but it pays off!

The final track on the album ‘Burial’ is haunting all the same – the organ and gospel backing singers give it a church song feel. I was not expecting it at all. We are forced to listen to the lyrics in this track too. Although the backing singers sometimes overpower Sey – she comes right back in this track with her mighty voice.

‘Still’ is a genial song with the melody taking us away into the lyrics. Her voice sounds gospel with a touch of soul, of course! ‘Tell him I’m no fool’ is a key message in the song. What is Sey hinting at? was the question on my lips. ‘You’ is similar in that it has a thumping bass beat. It brings back the classic ballad with a modern twist.

Sey surprises us with ‘Ruin’. You should know what to expect but just when you do Sey changes it up! It felt as though she was marching towards the persona in the lyrics. A clever and well-thought out song, as we come to expect from Sey.

The lip-smacking ‘Hard Time’ is hard-hitting and catchy undoubtedly adding to the experimental sound of the album. The iconic Sey sound is solidified in the listeners mind, taking us away into the beat of the song. But we are brought back with harsh lyrics – “hunt you down” being an example, bringing us back into reality by the time the song finishes. It was one of my favourite tracks among others.

There are four bonus tracks on the album – Pistols At Dawn, River and two alternative versions of ‘Younger’.

This album makes the listener think and challenges your thoughts on Sey and her sound as well as your thoughts on yourself. The single-word song titles pack a punch that we can’t miss. It’s a strong album that I’ll be listening to repeatedly!

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