The way I and a lot of other critics are seeing it these days, compositional soul has never been a rarer commodity in pop than it is in 2023, but this just isn’t the case with R&B. In the underground, singers like Devontaii are changing the game with fusion aesthetics that push the boundaries beyond what many critics and listeners thought R&B would ever be capable of encompassing, and although the mainstream is still producing hot hits around every turn, there’s never been a time in which the indie artist has as much control as they do today. Devontaii’s new single “My Side” pledges this songwriter’s allegiance to the underground, and it’s one of my favorite new tracks of its kind to debut this year. This beat has an incredibly versatile feel, and the general country influence over the style of the groove is a big part of the reason why I think the bassline ends up feeling as warm as it does.
There’s no doubt that Devontaii is a country boy at heart, and his rejection of plasticity from both a creative and production point of view in “My Side” is representative of a trend I could only hope to see more of in both indie circles and those of the commercially-bankrolled R&B community. The guitar parts we hear in this single are intensely disarming, leaving us vulnerable to whatever lyrical lashings Devontaii wants to subject us to for the whole of the song. There isn’t a lot of breathing room between the strings and the vocal, but in all reality, there didn’t need to be; this is an artist who sounds his best when he’s working against an otherwise claustrophobic sonic environment. He’s tightening his arranging style, and that’s going to set a lot of his future work apart from the competition.
I would have normally preferred just a little more of a bass element for this kind of framework, but the conservative look Devontaii decided to utilize works just fine for the circumstances. He isn’t a fan of the excesses a lot of his contemporaries are so head over heels in love with nowadays, and from the looks of this most recent aural document, he’s committing himself to remove as much of the fat from his sound as he can as he grows into the artist he’s always wanted himself to be portrayed as. I like the direction, but it would be crazy to determine what his endgame is just based on the diverse material he’s released thus far.
Though I didn’t know much about Devontaii before getting into “My Side” this August, its rhythm and rhymes are intriguing enough to ensure that I’ll be coming back to this artist for more of his work in the future. The throwback-style slow jam has been enjoying quite the resurgence in this middle part of 2023, and as long as this player keeps his focus on what works best for the medium, he’s going to see even more successes in this new decade than he did in any part of the last.
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