This is a very accomplished debut project that delightfully exhibits the different facets that make up Preyé’s unique artistry…
By Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku
Singer-songwriter, Preyé, is no stranger to the keen-eyed, ear-to-the-ground music enthusiast. She has been plying her musical trade sporadically since her bold single, “Mortia” all the way in 2015. Over the past 7 years, she has released a selection of singles wherein it was obvious that a young budding talent was putting down roots and finding its voice. A cursory listen through 2017’s “Pieces of Me,” 2018’s “Vanity” with Davina Oriakhi, 2019’s “Love Fumes,” and 2021’s “Peace of Mind” will highlight this stylistic evolution. It is easy to hear the beginnings of her boisterous playful melodies, the origins of her unique way of layering harmonies, her penchant for unusual vocal additions, and the development of her asymmetrical poetic writing style. All of these elements seem to have matured and coalesced beautifully into her debut EP, Don’t Look Down!
The EP opens with “You Can Dream, But…,” a dreamy sonic thesis statement. There is a weightless freedom to this track that embodies the carefree solace to be found in the love and self-discovery that the project is centred around. The title and atmosphere of the EP are introduced with a simple rich bassline and a piano that hammers the main melody line home, almost like a mantra. Ghostly ethereal harmonies swim around your ears reminding you not to look down while you dream. The savvy listener will be able to pick out a host of faint backing vocals (some, courtesy of Joyce Olong and her signature voice) that work with the muted trumpet and a sparse breakbeat to fill out the almost hallucinatory soundscape.
Now that your auditory appetite has been sufficiently whet, we jump right into the first of the three previously released singles. “Red Wine” is a jazzy R&B/Soul offering, and the smooth guitars in the intro clue you in from the jump. “Stay with me, close to me lover,” Preyé sings in tones as sultry and intoxicating as the title implies. Her vocal delivery is fittingly sensual. Her harmonies ride the instrumentals as effortlessly as this song invites you to. “Hands on my hips, riding shotgun,” she croons. There should be no doubts that this song is intended for intimate moments. “This thing, you got to beg for it,” Preyé’s explains in the second half of the track. “You got to beg for it.” Not to get carried away, but who wouldn’t beg for it if they were being serenaded with this song?
If the intro is the thesis statement, then “Love, Today” featuring Ladipoe is the thematic climax of the EP. The bAd entity–produced track arrives with a commanding punch and energy with bold 808s, pounding drums, and sharp guitars. The song espouses an understanding that love is all we have to give and we shouldn’t let it be wasted. Preyé’s strong sense of melody is present again and her honeyed harmonies float above the pulsating beat, bestowing it with a soft touch that cements the point she is making. “Just wanna be free, keeping it cool … Wanna love somebody, love with all of my heart.” It’s a sentiment many a listener should be able to relate to. Ladipoe’s strong personal verse supports the argument, imploring the listener to look within if our efforts are not appropriately received. “Don’t let them shake it … Don’t let them break it. Dig inside, you don’t need validation.” What Ladipoe’s verse lacks in length, it makes up for in impact and poignance. And he ends it with a nostalgic interpolation of Mary Mary’s line, “shackles off my feet so I can dance.” This is a song that grew on me with subsequent listens. It’s not the most complex or stylish, but it comes across with an honesty and earnestness that warms my heart. They have me relating strongly with the emotions they’re communicating, and isn’t that what music is all about?
“D.L.D Interlude” is a little break that continues in the vein of the intro and picks up from the spoken introspection that closes out “Love, Today.”Preyé guides us through her affirmations with layers of angelic harmonies wafting in and out over a pulsing thick synth bass, rich droning pads, and a head-bopping boom-bap hip-hop drumline. The muted trumpet from track one returns as well. “I am worthy of love,” she leads, before instructing the listener, “Allow yourself to be loved.” And just as we follow her lead, affirming our worthiness, she proceeds to stunt on us. “I’m not in the streets with y’all anymore,” she flexes. May we all join her in love because if this is what being in love sounds like, who wouldn’t want some?
“D.L.D Interlude” bleeds directly into “Malibu” which is clearly cut from the same sonic cloth. The drums change up and bestow a playful funky twist upon the pads and synth bass from the interlude. The playfulness of the instrumental is mirrored in the song’s context and content, telling the story of the flirtatious early stages of a romantic encounter. “Boy, what you wanna do? You really pique my interest … Hands on my body, you know I love it.” This song is perfection to me, and is my favourite off the EP. I absolutely love everything about it; from the DOZ-produced bounce and the simple effective lyricism, to the mix and blend of all the vocal layers. It all comes together to create a thoroughly cohesive package. And in my opinion, the specific way Preyé layering of her harmonies is one of the strongest tools in her stylistic arsenal, and it cements her ability as an excellent R&B artiste. Time and again, Preyé packs the sonic space with delicate divine harmony lines that sound beautiful together and are also used sparingly enough to be effective each time.
“Color” is something of a detour. The short eclectic track produced by Joyce Olong reminds me of the spacious jazzy tunes regularly associated with spoken word and poetry clubs, with its lively snares and jumping bassline. Even the vocal delivery switches between clearly sung sections and these almost spoken passages, further cementing the poetry comparison for me. While I appreciate it for its own strengths, it was a song that I had a tendency to skip past in the grand scheme of the project on subsequent listens. However, I recognise that it forms a sort of yin and yang tandem with the final song, and it does add something to that experience. They sound like two halves of a whole.
With that said, the final track, “Crayons,” also a Joyce Olong production, slows the pace down considerably. This song is beautifully crafted. When the chorus hits, and the shakers are shaking away, I couldn’t help but sway like a palm tree in the wind. “In my world there is wonder, here there’s colour. I’m lost in a box of crayons.” You can feel this wonder she speaks of. The chorus is sung with an almost child-like awe. I implore the listener to close their eyes and envision the colours of this song. I feel this song throughout myself. The bass guitars and the filtered keys vibrate through the depths of the body while the guitars and vocals float around the head. This is such a strong closing statement to the project that, upon its conclusion after my first listen, I sat in the subsequent silence for a while and just let it all wash over me. (Preyé, what would it take for a remix of this with The Cavemen.?)
In all, Don’t Look Down! is a very accomplished debut project that delightfully exhibits the different facets that make up Preyé’s unique artistry. Her singing is stellar, her penmanship is potent. Her harmonies came up countless times because they truly do bring the songs to life. They add a dreamy layer that acts like a warm blanket atop the strength of her lead vocals. She is adept at painting scenarios in song and communicating emotion with a rare clarity. Don’t Look Down! is a collection of 7 individually entertaining songs that also combine into a powerful cohesive whole.
Preyé said on a recent Twitter space that the project was a labour of love. It’s a labour of love, about love, in so many different forms. She speaks on self-love, romantic love, a love of life, the world, what you do, people, etc. Love was also evidently put into each and every song. The sonic direction is as cohesive as the thematic one. Much credit must be given to the team behind the scenes: the producers, writers, and engineers. This project is hopefully the start of a wonderful ascension into stardom. The early signs look promising.
Preyé is currently distributed by Apple subsidiary, Platoon. In June, “Malibu” was listed as a Billboard Top R&B find. She was also recently selected amongst others for Spotify’s Africa Month global campaign, “Spotify Sounds of Africa.” It seems the world is beginning to take note of her star potential, and on the back of this EP, I would say, they are right to do so.
Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media.