In his debut single, titled “Anniversary,” Toronto-based pop singer/songwriter Jeffrey Li makes his artistic priorities clear to any and all who are listening. Whether it be the cadence of his verses or the tonal presence of his voice, there’s an emotional twist to every element in “Anniversary” that serves to verify the authenticity of Li’s sentiments. At a mere fifteen years of age, this isn’t a veteran of the game by any means – while most of his peers are thinking about dates and getting something above a D grade on their math test, this young man is making melodies that are on par with some of the best in the pop genre this year.
There’s so much emphasis on the harmony throughout “Anniversary” that the percussion occasionally has to fight its way to the surface of the song, but were it not as big and bold as it is in this instance, it wouldn’t be able to convey the emotion that it inarguably does. In this single, Li isn’t relying on one weaponized melodic instrument over another – he’s using them all, and quite efficiently I might add. There’s a story being told here, and its full-color characters exist because of the detail within the mix.
I absolutely love the string parts in this song, and I think they add a sense of bittersweet retrospection that we aren’t getting from anything else in the track. “Anniversary” has a potent lyrical soul, but its leaner melodic charms are what set up the foundation for the narrative more than anything else does. Beside the electric parts, the acoustic guitar we start off with introduces contrast before we can decide what to do with it, and thus, Jeffrey Li is able to control the mood of the music almost exclusively through his singing.
Multilayered pop music is always more attractive than something black and white in my experience, and with the textural expressiveness of the keys outside the chorus, “Anniversary” qualifies to be deemed the former over the latter. The swaggering centerpiece is always the vocal, but it gets a lot of extra assistance in sounding like a million-dollar melody machine through the band backing Jeffrey Li. He’s putting a lot more stock in his own talents than he is anything that can be produced from behind the sound board, and this makes him all the more refreshing a find for those of us craving a sound more simple than synthesized.
If this is a sample of what Jeffrey Li is going to be bringing to the table on a regular basis, his solo career is going to take off a lot sooner than some within his own circles might be expecting. At the age he is now, there’s no telling how good he’s going to get in five years’ time; with the right environmental influences and proper emotional channeling in his work, this is a pop musician who could possibly exert a lot of influence over the genre’s narrative in the 2020s.
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