Vineet Singh Hukmani’s new release is a bracing single entitled “I Pray”. It documents, with great liveliness, his response to the pandemic’s effect on his home country India and the world at large. You might expect this talented singer/songwriter, author of numerous first-class preceding singles, to approach the track as some sort of anthem, but Vineet confounds expectations. The trap/hip-hop feel he embraces for this track broaches new territory in Vineet’s career, but he doesn’t betray even a hint of hesitation. The experience he’s derived from those previous releases bleeds into this new track and helps make it one of the more impact commercial outings I’ve yet heard in 2021.
It has a totally modern texture. Synthesizers and other electronic-driven instruments are the song’s backbone but never rob “I Pray” of its humanity. Vineet has a clear ear for employing those instruments within sturdy songwriting architecture that may be predictable for experienced fans of this style, but it’s satisfying to hear him get there. His songwriting instincts ensure he never bites off more than he can chew; the song is the right length and never lapses into self-indulgence.
His voice will be the lights out highlight for many listeners. It evolves over the course of “I Pray”, counterpointing the shimmering synths and, though it’s a studio recording, there’s never even a second in “I Pray” when he sounds anything less than commanding. There’s not a single vocal misstep. His phrasing matches the musical arrangement without ever straining for effect. It focuses on eliciting an emotional response from listeners and succeeds with room to spare.
The production strengths of “I Pray” are key to framing it in the best possible light. There’s no significant distinction between the sound quality of this cut and what you would hear from any marquee act. Vineet is ready for prime time and both the artistic and aural merits of this performance are apparent from the outset.
There’s no dissonant stretches where the song’s different sections fail to cohere. Vineet has smoothed out all the possible rough edges and the construction gains a lot from nearly flawless transitions. The synthesizers and other instruments are wreathed in warmth and clarity – the more expansive sections of the song later during the recording are especially atmospheric.
He isn’t attempting to remake the songwriting wheel with this performance. Instead, “I Pray” shows he has mastered the form and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he writes more in this style. It is a natural fit for him and likewise allows him the latitude to flex his stylistic muscles. The incorporation of soul and R&B influences into this song aren’t pronounced but, nonetheless, meaningful.
We’ll be hearing from Vineet again. No doubt of that. “I Pray”, among other qualities, is also the record of a man committed to his art. Music lights a fire within that COVID, advancing years, or any other earthly power can snuff out. We need musical artists like this more than ever – those will to engage and, more than all else, embrace humanity.
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