Closure reminds me of why albums and EPs are called “bodies of work.” A singular body, project, product, conveying a focused and earnest message and theme through consistent production, tone, and lyricism…
By Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku
Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and raised in South Africa, Valerie Omari was surrounded by various powerful influences for her music. Her breakthrough came on the back of her 2018 single, “Just like the Rain.” She instantly became known as a name to watch for in Africa’s developing R&B scene. In 2020, Apple Music and OkayAfrica spotlighted her as a new artist to keep tabs on. Fast-forward three years, and while her profile has not risen meteorically, the growth in her artistry and her standing has been steady and sustained. This development is exemplified in her sophomore project, the Closure EP.
Right off the bat, Closure is one of the most cohesive projects I have heard this year. Valerie Omari manages a consistent emotional and sonic tone throughout the R&B EP, focusing thematically on a romantic breakup and all the drama, emotions, conversations, and various paraphernalia that one can come with. Tied together by intimate voice notes and somber baritone features, Closure welcomes you behind the scenes of this storied separation and brings the listener into the privacy of those moments.
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The mood is set by the deep pianos of “Never Know.” Valerie Omari’s strong, clear vocals break through the emotive blanket with honest pain in her lyrics and delivery, expressing betrayal and pain. The drums kick in with power as the chorus swells. Guitars wail in the instrumentals, accompanied by solemn synths and pads. The instrumentals die down for Francophone rapper, Smahlo, to deliver another heartfelt verse pleading for forgiveness and a second chance. He supplies affecting harmonies in the second chorus, and the song winds down leaving you feeling all the emotion the situation demands.
The titular track, “Closure,” continues the barrage of feelings, beginning with a voice note expressing love. Solemn chords jump in to accompany more of Valerie Omari’s powerful singing. In French, she hits sweeping high notes propped up by shimmering pads and tear-jerking harmonies. This short song has no drums, leaving you to drown in the sea of emotion created by the instruments and her vocals.
Unrelenting, the soft emotive keys continue on into “For You.” Plucky guitars and percussive synths provide a different energy, reinforced by Afropop-inspired drum patterns with strong 808 bass and rattling percussions. Omari maintains her level with the honesty of the lyricism, painting relatable pictures with her words. The chorus swells beautifully with the drums in full swing and Omari’s singing supported by ghostly vocal harmonies. American artiste, Myke Grizzly, jumps in with a brief but deeply effective verse, peppering the track with rich and tender harmony passages. He ends the song with haunting ululations that may leave the listener in a reflective state.
The Afro-energy flows right into “I Hope You Understand” which sees Omari’s persona assert her new positions within the relationship dynamic, stepping up and moving on. The Afrobeat drums bounce atop an instrumental comprised of strumming guitars, deep bass notes and 808 kicks. While still not danceable, this is perhaps the most energetic of the songs on Closure.
Filtered “Aahs” lead us into “If I Tried,” the lead single and final track. This song follows the lines of the more typical Pop R&B, founded on soft, smooth chords, rattling hi-hats and the associated Hip-Hop flavoured drums. Even Omari’s delivery follows suit, with more truncated syllables, less sung passages, and a certain head-nodding bounce. The chorus contains more traditional singing as she expresses a need to let go after going through a lot in the relationship. A groovy synth-and-drum driven instrumental break bookends the choruses before South African rapper, The Rabbi Himself, chimes in with a stellar verse from the same jilted perspective, saying “Hidin’ your phone and then textin’ outside, Come back and kiss me like we’re all alright, You said you love me and I would believe, But even a pastor can still be a thief.” The song and album end with a somewhat positive swell of instruments, perhaps signalling that things can get better again after closure.
Closure reminds me of why albums and EPs are called “bodies of work.” A singular body, project, product, conveying a focused and earnest message and theme through consistent production, tone, and lyricism. Every facet of Closure’s being is geared towards curating this intended experience. It pays delicious dividends.
Each song is immaculately produced and serves the album perfectly, combining and flowing through R&B, Afrobeats and Hip-Hop influences. The beats, sound selection, and instrumentation are symbiotic across the whole project. Valerie Omari and her featured artists project genuine emotion and relatable honesty in each of their verses, with the songs sometimes feeling like we are eavesdropping on private conversations. This effect is bolstered by the inclusion of those voice notes in native French which give them a more naturalistic feel.
The lyrical and thematic intention is backed up by great technique. Omari’s singing is strong and unwavering, her notes are clear and controlled. The featured rappers delivered with great flow, and even impressive singing when called upon. And then all the supplied vocals and instrumentals are tied together by virtually flawless engineering. Not a decibel sounds out of place; not a vocal line sounds mismatched.
Finally, you get all the well-written, well-sung, and well-engineered songs put together in an order that almost tells a whole story on its own. Closure is a small but mighty project that has become one of my favourites of the year already.
Lyricism – 1.5
Tracklisting – 1.8
Sound Engineering – 1.8
Vocalisation – 1.6
Listening Experience – 1.5
Rating – 8.2/10
Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media.