Intro tracks don’t usually amount to much, but when cinematic songcraft is your specialty, going the extra mile even with the subtlest of details isn’t optional. Fans have come to expect a quality product from start to finish in Brandon Coleman’s output, and his new album Champagne’s opening cut “This Is What I Meant // Intro” does not disappoint. Softly melodic and stylized with a hint of retro physicality, the harmony is the centerpiece in this song, leading us into the arms of a Vibe Tyson-featured “Swervin’” elegantly. Nothing is obstructing the direct path Coleman’s lyrics are forming between his heart and ours; in Champagne, he’s more exposed to the audience than he’s ever allowed himself to be in previous efforts. He’s front and center with the listener, both with his rhymes and the rhythm framing them.
Qskii puts a nice cherry on the balladic trap sundae “Toxic,” but it’s Coleman’s fragility in the hook that makes this track one of the best on the album. “One More Time” gushes with a melody that is straight Michael in a couple of memorable spots, but its indulgence doesn’t leave the simplistic groove in “Shawty” sounding diminished in comparison. Brandon Coleman doesn’t appear to get intimidated by different compositional concepts, even when they’re outside of the construct his hardcore fans are most familiar of, and that alone sets him far apart from the competition this season. Fortune favors the bold, and just spending a half-hour with this tracklist spotlights how intrepid a player this guy undisputedly is.
“Coincidence” hits us hard and fast with a big hook and a Bell Biv DeVoe-esque rhythm that feels even sexier contemporarily than it did back in the day and, along with the slow jam “Like You (feat. Cam James),” could make for a nice single/video combo this summer. Coleman isn’t all business in Champagne; “Flight 13” is more about fun than it is flexing, and I would even suggest that his willingness to take a step back in time with some of the aesthetics in the aforementioned songs shows a desire to strip away any expectations we might have about his future content. He’s freeing himself of the pressurized underground culture that has stunted the growth of countless others in the crossover R&B/hip-hop game, and his rebel cry can be heard from one song to the next here.
We wrap up Champagne with a funky jam in “B.A.B.Y” and an unapologetic throwback to Bobby Brown in a “For the Ladies (Outro) – remix,” and although the record clocks a surprisingly mild 29 minutes, it doesn’t feel particularly condensed. In the short amount of time he rocks our speakers in this album, Brandon Coleman covers a lot of creative ground and doesn’t slow his momentum for anything. The guest parts here are excellently chosen for the material, but the bottom line is simple – everything about Champagne speaks to the personality of Coleman more than it does anything else. His identity is the narrative in this LP, and it’s one that I could spend the whole summer breaking down as a critic and an R&B fan.
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