In the brand new single “Chemical Smile,” the first from songwriter Ronin, the rookie pop singer submits a groove-riddled, rollicking R&B lightning bolt fashioned into three minutes of pure, unparalleled swing that will spellbind all who hunger for a dance-worthy drumbeat this summer. Effervescent in tone and efficient in construction, the bass beats down the invisible barrier between the artist and his audience in this song, making it impossible for us to hide from the heavy-handed sway that the drums are waiting to unleash at the drop of a hat. Ronin’s swaggering lead vocal acts as a sonic superglue, keeping all of the swelling components in the rhythm from bursting out of our speakers and flooding the room with feedback and frivolous white noise. There’s no shortage of luster in “Chemical Smile,” from the lyrics to the toned instrumental crushing that runs right beside them, and if you thought that the most stirring material to be released this season was going to come out of a major label kingpin, you’d better think again and prepare yourself for the man and the musician that is Ronin.
A polished sound is the hallmark of a pop legend’s discography, and Ronin knows it. That’s why “Chemical Smiles” is varnished in a sleek, urban texture that tethers its most vibrant tones to the left-leaning R&B sound of the American scene at the moment. There aren’t as many bells and whistles here as there have been in the vast majority of electronic pop songs that I’ve reviewed this past year, but that’s something that I really, really enjoy about this single. Ronin has a voice that doesn’t need to be overproduced with a lot of external elements added on for the heck of it; all he really needs is a musical backdrop that can match up with his powerful vocal abilities, and that’s basically what we find in “Chemical Smiles.” There’s no denying that the instrumental side of this song is awash with a tech-savvy sparkle, but his voice is left relatively untouched and in the same clean tone that we would find it in during an intimate live show.
Summer 2019 just got a lot more interesting with the introduction of this jam, and I sincerely hope that it isn’t the only release that Ronin shares with us before the year is over. As much as I have become hooked on this single’s most alluring qualities, such as its heroic harmonies and heart-melting melodicism, I don’t know that it’s a complete depiction of who Ronin is as an artist. To fully understand his creative identity, I’ll have to hear at least an extended play or a few more tracks, but if either are anything like this one, I don’t know that I’ll be able to stay away for too long. There are a lot of artists trying to make the sort of music that he is right now (and failing for a variety of different reasons, I might add), but there’s something surreal and unique about his sound that I intend on exploring more as he finds his footing in the industry.
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