When I sit down to review a debut single, I’m never totally sure what to expect. Sometimes artists go with an identity song to set the stage for their career, while others are still in an experimental phase, but in the case of Mati Lyons and her virgin single “Practice 4 Me,” I’m inclined to describe it as being a little bit of both. “Practice 4 Me” is steeped in hip-hop grooves and flirts with a rollicking R&B beat, but there’s something rustic and familiar about its vocal track, which has more in common with the angelic midcentury pop that foreran contemporary jazz than it does anything in the artistic lexicon of 2019.
At any rate, this is a startlingly robust and erudite offering from a singer and songwriter who has clearly chosen the right profession. Lyons’ honeysweet crooning is soft and tender, and yields a wonderful contrast with the chilling bassline, which is cold, calculated and devoid of the candor that she sports in her vocal performance. The juxtaposition of the colorless low-end and the buoyant, playful verses is a bit eccentric, but I wouldn’t go as far as to call it outside the mainstream. Lyons is a multidimensional vocalist if I’ve ever heard one, and that’s exploited excellently in this song.
The drums are as textured as the melodic instruments are, which usually isn’t the case with most of the pop music that makes its way to my desk. There’s a tension in the beats that is never fully released, and though it renders the chorus all the more climactic, it doesn’t feel like a forced concept by any stretch of your imagination. The lyrics give us the essence of her emotions, but without this gorgeously defined rhythm, there would be no context, and really no overarching mood, to the music that accompanies Lyons’ every verse.
This master mix has all the right bells and whistles as far as I’m concerned, but I think it’s worth noting that “Practice 4 You” is anything but overproduced. Mati Lyons presents a lot of details to us within the melody that she joins to the fleeting synth’s somberness, and as complex an arrangement as she utilizes here, it’s not so experimental as to distance itself from the contemporary swing that indie R&B has been associated with lately. The mix is superbly meticulous, and ultimately deserves as much credit for the atmosphere that the music creates as anything else here does.
I’m really looking forward to hearing more from this incredibly skilled young woman. Mati Lyons has a tons of potential, and it wouldn’t appear that she’s holding anything back from us in her official debut. Obviously it will take some time, but as she grows into her sound, I’m very curious to see which route she takes with her career; adherence to the indie lifestyle, or a major play for mainstream dominance. No matter what she decides to do, if she continues to produce on the same level of creativity as she has in “Practice 4 Me,” I think that she is going to be in for a very long and successful career.
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