ILYAH’s new single “Habibi” demonstrates all the ample stylishness and easy-going sophistication that has thus far distinguished his musical output. Based out of Boston, ILYAH is of Moroccan descent and you can hear strands of that heritage running through his art. Strong French and English influences permeate his music as well, but the results never sound like a hodgepodge of sound. ILYAH, instead, mixes these different touchstones together in a seamless blend that will appeal to casual and hardcore music fans alike. ILYAH first achieved public notice after posting performances to YouTube that fostered an initial following and, even after reaching a certain level of prominence, continues to release music videos via YouTube. His video accompanying “Habibi” is colorful and highly stylized without ever obscuring the vocal and musical performance.
ILYAH keeps the musical arrangement uncluttered and functional rather than adorning it with meaningless tinsel. The focus is clearly on the vocal from the beginning but ILYAH never relies on overwrought vocal pyrotechnics but, instead, a confident glide through the song’s lyrics culminating with a playful chorus possessing a light bounce. The musical instrumentation is, obviously, electronic in nature, particularly the percussion, but it never manifests itself in an overt way and has a warm sound despite its nature.
Another of his singles, “Miscommunication”, is a real jewel in his crown. It eschews the common electronic backing for his songs in favor of a duet between his voice and reverb laden electric guitar. It, likewise, affords ILYAH an opportunity to show off his vocal chops in ways his other singles do not and ILYAH doesn’t disappoint. He inhabits the track with well measured sensitivity, coaxing each line of the lyrics out with exquisite attention to mood and detail alike, and it matches up well with the gentle guitar lines counterpointing his voice. The aforementioned lyrical content is above average and ILYAH delivers another music video that underlines his talents as a born performer.
“The Only One” returns ILYAH to the same musical terrain powering “Habibi” but with a more ballad-like feel than the latter track. It has another memorable chorus that sticks in your brain even after a single listen and ILYAH wisely builds much of the song around that irresistible hook. Like his other singles, “The Only One” never overstays its welcome and has every bit of the same unshakable focus defining his music overall. “Girls Like You” has slightly busier percussion than any of the previously mentioned singles and the vocal phrasing matches that uptempo slant. His penchant for sparse musical arrangements remains in full effect with this performance and the extended atmospherics opening the song are a marked departure from the other singles mentioned earlier in this review.
ILYAH has made a name for himself through talent and sheer hard work. He’s been fortunate, as well, to be noticed by high powered backers like one time founder of the band 98 Degrees Jeff Timmons who has recruited him to take part in the new boy band Overnight. One thing, if nothing else, is certain – you may surround ILYAH with any assortment of musicians you like, but his distinctive voice and personality will shine through. It definitely does with these singles.
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