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“7 SEAS” Review: June Freedom Demonstrates His Unique Artistry on Enjoyable LP

“7 SEAS” Review: June Freedom Demonstrates His Unique Artistry on Enjoyable LP

7 SEAS - June Freedom - art cover - Afrocritik

7 SEAS makes it very clear why June Freedom is quickly growing an international audience. His sound makes for easy listening that cuts across language and genre barriers, making him very accessible to many listeners who are open to a simple and soft-spoken fun time.

By Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku 

Pedro Fontes Veiga, professionally known as June Freedom, is a transatlantic boundary-pushing artiste in the Afro/Alt-Pop genre. Although he was born in Boston, US, he spent a significant portion of his formative years on the Cape Verde Islands, his family’s place of origin. He often describes his upbringing on this volcanic island as a unique coming-of-age experience, marked by the presence of raw live music, horseback riding, surfing, and the vitality that comes from living in such a distinct environment. Consequently, June Freedom’s artistic identity, while rooted in the island’s culture, evolved into a multicultural and multilingual fusion, encompassing English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Kriolu (Cape Verdean Creole).

Settled in New York, June initiated his musical career by releasing his debut official single, “Dor d’um Kriolu” in 2020. His talents caught the attention of the global independent distributor EMPIRE, thanks to an endorsement from the multi-platinum artiste, Akon. With this significant momentum, and his remarkable ability to seamlessly blend various genres like Alt-Pop, Zouk/Kizomba, R&B, and Afrosoul, June rose to prominence in 2021, earning the distinction of being Cape Verde’s breakthrough artiste of the year. It was June’s exceptional fusion of diverse musical influences that paved the way for the remarkable success of his first full-length album, Anchor Baby, which debuted the same year to widespread critical acclaim. This outstanding body of work has been hailed, not only by Cape Verdeans, but also by music enthusiasts worldwide, who view it as a future classic in the making. June’s achievement was further underscored by his reception of two Cabo Verde Music Awards at the nation’s 11th annual ceremony, reinforcing the timelessness of his music.

A year later, on the commemoration of his debut album, June unveiled an enhanced edition of Anchor Baby, the Anchor Baby (Deluxe), which further advanced the initial album’s international recognition. June has achieved remarkable global success, amassing more than 1.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify and nearly 55 million streams across various platforms. This remarkable achievement solidifies his position as the most widely listened-to Cape Verdean artiste in 2023, surpassing even the legendary figures of Cesária Évora and Nelson Freitas. Notably, his fanbase is rapidly expanding in both Europe and the Americas, attracting the attention and acclaim of prominent media outlets such as Rolling Stone US, GQ Middle East, and TimeOut Portugal, all of which recognise his worldwide potential. This global surge in June’s popularity is further propelled by his impressive history of live performances at distinguished events like SXSW, AfriCon LA, Atlantic Music Expo, and numerous other festivals and venues around the world, contributing significantly to the diversification of his audience across different regions and languages.

After firmly signing with EMPIRE’s label division, June opened a new chapter in his burgeoning international career with his stellar Sweet Waters EP in March 2023. On October 13, he stamped this new chapter by releasing this 13-track album, 7 SEAS.  

The album kicks off with “On Road”, which serves up a reverb-washed emotive intro before pivoting into an Amapiano-influenced main part. Rattling shakers, persistent synth stabs, and light log drums define the rhythm over a deep melodic pad. June’s delivery keeps the emotive edge with subtle subdued multilingual singing.

The energy picks up on “Katana”, with percussion-heavy Afrobeats drums augmented by sparse smooth keys and chords. Lively bass guitars are joined by sporadic rhythm guitars and saxophone passages to add live Afrobeats flavour to June’s sensual delivery. 

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“Messi” continues in the Afrobeats vein with a simple two-chord progression defined by strummed guitar chords as steady Afrobeats triplet drums cascade over the instrumental. June and featured artiste, Naïka, bask in sensual romantic energy and trade flirtations with fitting breathy singing. 

“Say Salud” finds its rhythm on the back of a steady four-to-the-floor kick pattern accented by various Latin-esque percussions like claves and güiro. Shimmery guitars grace the track as June embraces his inner smooth-talker with lines like, “I like it low, your energy, don’t lie to me, yo love how you move, how you wine me slow.”

7 SEAS - June Freedom - track list - Afrocritik
Tracklist

“World Going Crazy” features another two-chord progression, this time, defined by electric piano chords. A rumbling bass guitar combines with the steady kicks to drive the pulse, which is again accented by a smooth layer of percussions. June’s singing remains smooth and sultry, here he reaches his higher register pulling on notes that float over the simple instrumental. Featured artiste, Jaz Karis, follows his lead and coats the song with sugary melodies in her honeyed voice. The track invites one to focus on their lover, while the craziness of the world goes on around them. As is typical, June sprinkles in lyrics from various languages to broaden the song’s spectrums.

“Roma to Paris” is a bit of a switch-up. June employs a semi-rapped delivery to promise escapades and jet-setting with a lover at various romantic locations. “I want to take you to Roma/ Fashion Week in Paris/ Touch down in London/ Love you like Lauren/ Calling me “Daddy”, he insists over an extremely groovy electronic instrumental built on thumping 808 basses and log drums used to the same effect. The drum-heavy beat is designed to get heads nodding and toes tapping.

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“Diana” brings us back to the realm of Afrobeats as June laments about the titular Diana over a spacious Afrobeats instrumental comprised of simple chords, backing saxophones, and clacking snare patterns. The song ends with a distinct synth bass melody that leads directly into the next song.

“Sins” opens with this synth that is transformed to match the sombre tone of the song. Abolaji Collins, featured here, delivers a heartfelt chorus over a downtempo Afrobeats instrumental filled with atmosphere and emotion. He and June introspect about their human shortcomings and pain, with deliveries that communicate such vivid emotion to the listener.

June Freedom portrait - Afrocritik
June Freedom

“Egoista” lightens the thematic weight a bit as we return to themes of love with this Zouk-adjacent offering, featuring genre-appropriate snare patterns and emotive strummed guitar chords. With very little English, June sings convincingly about a selfish partner and the plights of having loved them. 

“Limbo” takes us in the opposite direction as June heaps praise on a lover who is everything he is looking for, with lyrics like “Who taught you how to love like this?/ It’s your grace and good energy/ Find another better, no guarantee/ Baby, come with me, easy 1-2-3”. He sings this in his typical laid-back smooth delivery, atop an instrumental built on plucked guitars and smooth chords. Heavy kick drums and deep 808 basses give the song a very firm pulse balanced out by light snares and energetic drum rolls. 

“Dior You” ups the pace with its rattling percussions and lively kick drums. Ghostly keys provide backing chords that are topped by reverberating synth lines and June’s soft-spoken deliveries. While the song provides an interesting stylistic counterpoint, it does feel a bit sparse and passes by really quickly.

“Zanzi” finds June examining the complexity of modern life. “Jealousy, enemies, Pamo ki nos e sim, Gang on commando, If they sneaking on that perjury, Pray for serenity, Protect your energy”, he advises with anecdotal wisdom in his delivery. His gentle vocals glide over a percussion-driven instrumental with minimal melodic elements; mostly steel drum-like soft synth keys and a smattering of saxophone and guitar accents. The steady rhythm of the elements combine into a relaxing song perfect for swaying to.

“Highlife” closes out the project with a downtempo Afrobeats flourish, characterised by strummed guitars and light saxophones, providing depth to a simple pad chord progression. Simple percussions and drums provide the catchy rhythm over which June waxes poetics about a range of topics, almost rounding up the album thematically as well. His delivery here is along the lines of what we have come to expect — gentle and simple. He lets the instruments take centre stage as the album bows out emphatically.

June Freedom portrait - Afrocritik
June Freedom

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7 SEAS is a thoroughly enjoyable album from front to back. June’s almost amorphous blend of R&B, Soul, Zouk/Kizomba, AfroPop/Afrobeats, and Latin influences settles in a place that combines the best aspects of all those genres; their smoothness, sweetness, and groove. Combined with his multilingual fluency, this means his unique musicality is perfect for creating songs that are easy to listen to, easy to groove along with, and good for setting a mood, no matter where in the world the listener may be from. While this sort of easy-listening music doesn’t call for the greatest lyrical depth, June still finds ways to inject fun sensual double entendres, clever wordplay, and introspective gems into his work, doing so in various tongues throughout the album. 

The production across the album is extremely bouncy and vibey. A vast majority of the album is Latin-influenced and Afrobeats-heavy, with prominent percussion, trendy soft keys, and live instrumental accents such as saxophones and rhythm guitars. The sonic palette makes for a strongly cohesive album. However, it does feel a bit monotonous further along in the project. Very few tracks stray from the established musicality, the most notable of which is probably “Roma to Paris.” These deviations help add a strong dash of variety to the project, while allowing June to vary his delivery and expression, enough to show himself in different dimensions. Without that variance, June seems very comfortable in his typical delivery pocket. His vocals are beautifully subtle, soft, and effortless. The actual timbre of his voice is light and smooth, and he uses that to his advantage. He hardly ever strains or raises it, which does make me wonder how interesting it would be to hear him do a bit more with his kind of voice. His melodies are typically simple as well, but that is not a bad thing. There is enough melodic interest to maintain the listener’s attention through the songs. His delivery is able to convey emotion and sensuality with ease, and as such, I wonder how much he would be able to accomplish were he to push himself or his style a bit more. 

Finally, the lively production and subtle expression are tied together by very good engineering. The instrumentals are mixed in a way that really enhances the live performance feeling many of the songs have. The more electronic songs are given a powerful oomph and thump that drive the energy of the songs. The vocals are processed very naturally and are mostly layered very precisely, with harmonies and backing vocals revealing themselves unobtrusively to the listener. The only shortcomings of the engineering come in certain places where June’s softer breathier moments get a bit lost in the instruments, causing the listener to lose some lyrical clarity. Thankfully, these moments do little to detract from the enjoyment of the project, as the rest of the elements more than makeup for such a little hiccup. 

7 SEAS makes it very clear why June Freedom is quickly growing an international audience. His sound makes for easy listening that cuts across language and genre barriers, making him very accessible to many listeners who are open to a simple and soft-spoken fun time. He is now firmly on my radar as an artiste to watch, and I do hope he pushes the envelope a bit further with his next release. 

Lyricism – 1.4

Tracklisting – 1.3

Sound Engineering – 1.5

Vocalisation – 1.5

Listening Experience – 1.4

Rating – 7.1/10

Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media. His music can be found across all platforms and he welcomes interaction on his social media @Yinoluu.

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