As a key member of the alternative R&B revival, Syd creates some of the most interesting and empowering music of her genre. However, with her highly anticipated debut, she may have left some fans wondering what happened.
Of all the artists associated with Odd Future, Syd is one of the most interesting. As the only woman, but also the only openly gay member of the group, she placed herself in the middle of a storm of both hype and mass scrutiny considering the group’s often offensive and perceived homophobic stances. Now, Syd has broken out onto her own, taking on alternative R&B with her latest project.
Syd, formerly known as Syd tha Kyd, blossomed as the lead vocalist of the neo-soul band The Internet. The group thrives on setting a mood and incrementally building off of it, similar to the approach of The xx or Frank Ocean. After releasing their critically acclaimed third LP, the band has gone on a hiatus of sorts, taking time to explore other musical projects. For Syd, that means finally releasing her long-anticipated debut solo album, Fin. Unfortunately, the LP’s experience will not fulfill some fans’ wants, leaving some shrugging and a lot to be desired.
The crux of Fin is a tasteful combination of ’90s R&B influences and modern alternative R&B sprinkled with an occasional trap-esque moment to spice up the mix — in terms of instrumentals, Fin doesn’t disappoint. Transitioning from her comfort zone with The Internet, Syd incorporates a lot of pop influences, drawing from the likes of Usher and choosing to try some luscious arrangements such as those on “Know” and “Got Her Own.”
No matter how dynamic the instruments may be on this record, Syd’s vocals are the opposite. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are a shortcoming. Following her strong influences from the ’90s, Syd sticks to more subdued vocals. Instead of breaking out on vocal riffs and displaying her dynamic range, she sticks to her guns and abides by her limitations, finding an empowering performance with modest confidence.
The issue with Fin isn’t that it’s poorly produced or that Syd’s vocals lack oomph. It just doesn’t feel like enough. Although demanding more out of an artist on their debut might be ridiculous, Syd isn’t exactly new to the game. For someone so seasoned in music, Syd should have been able to weave Fin into a rollercoaster of emotion, but instead, most moments fall flat and stand as passable pop music rather than a moving piece of art.
Beyond the trap influences on “All About Me,” this record doesn’t surprise often. And repeated listens aren’t rewarded either — there’s not much depth to most songs beyond the typical relationship perils. With nothing spectacular reaching out to draw in the listener, there’s no reason to come back.
In a genre so progressive as alternative R&B, just treading water isn’t going to cut the mustard. The likes of Solange, Frank Ocean and Sampha have outpaced her with their recent releases, and although music might not be a head-on competition, it is important to stay on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Syd must step up her game on upcoming work, using some of her experience producing and performing with The Internet to drive her newest creative endeavor.
- Genre: Alternative R&B
- Rating: 6/10