Fans of Jessie Reyez who put their money on her skill years ago are about to get paid big time.
Jessie Reyez’s debut album “Before Love Came to Kill Us” was released on March 27, after some deliberation over whether she should drop an album amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Reyez has shown off her vocal prowess in the past, like on her Grammy-nominated EP “Being Human in Public,” but her “Before Love Came to Kill Us” takes her skills to a different level.
The opening line of the album is “I should have fucked your friends” (in her song “DO YOU LOVE HER”), which gives a fitting first impression to listeners of what kind of album this is going to be, and just who Reyez is.
Reyez has always been raw in her music. The imperfections in her voice are the most beautiful aspects of her sound. And on that note, “Before Love Came to Kill Us” brings something a lot of popular music misses today. True emotion.
You can hear the anger, sadness, and frustration in her voice when her tone melts into cacophony. Reyez gets gritty with a side of love that’s not talked about in public — love that is both addictive and abusive. There are a lot of songs about heartbreak and relationships, and Reyez somehow brings a new truth to the table.
I have too many favorites from this album, and it’s hard to choose just one or three to highlight. Style is all over the place on this record. A sweet ballad in one place, smooth R&B jam in another, and even a doo-wop number with Eminem of all people. There are grimy pop anthems, and an unexpected rap that puts most MCs to shame.
“KILL US” has the title of the album in its lyrics, and it shows exactly why that love is so deadly. Reyez reflects on how relationships are broken by love, that once you venture into the tricky “I love you” there’s no going back. You either say goodbye or are together until death. Her vocals plead for the past.
“ROOF” is upsettingly too short at less than 2 minutes, which includes an unexpected surprise from Reyez. She delivers a rap that is a refreshing break from the other songs, so your palette is ready for more. What starts as normal pop verse dives unexpectedly into a Kendrick Lamar-inspired flow that most artists can’t imagine pulling off.
“INTRUDERS,” a commentary on immigration, is the thematic soulmate of “FAR AWAY.” While “FAR AWAY” goes into love separated by politics and borders, “INTRUDERS” ventures into a different and dangerous kind of love: nationalism.
“ANKLES” is a raw powerful breakout that marks Reyez’s talent and attitude. She knows how good she is, enough that she claims that the doubters can’t even reach her ankles. Period.
“COFFIN” (featuring Eminem) deserves a mention, because to have Eminem featured in a doo-wop is a risk for a freshman release. But the risk paid off. This pleasing track continues to explore Reyez and Eminem’s tortured love lives. Reyez doesn’t let performing aside a hip hop legend steal her spotlight. Her voice is the blade that put the body in the coffin.
There are many gems on this album, and I can’t write about them all. But what stands out is how passionate Reyez is about this project. It bleeds through her voice. These tracks have emotion that is absent in today’s mainstream music. Her lyrics are a deadly poison and her voice is the dart that injects them into your bloodstream.
For the Jessie Reyez ride-or-dies, this album delivers what they knew it could — in fact, it goes above and beyond. For those who are discovering Reyez for the first time, it’s a perfect introduction to what she’s capable of. You can support her or you can ignore her — it won’t bother her anyway. She blocks out the haters.
Longtime fans can claim the prized brag, “We found her first,” but the truth is that Reyez isn’t going to be owned by anybody. She’s on her own path.