Comfortable is available from:
20th May, 2014
Villi Vbeats Mambu & Femi V [@ProducerVbeats & @femi_vessel]
VOCAL ARRANGED BY:
Fola & Ideh
BACKGROUND VOCALS BY:
Areatha Anderson [@areathaanderson], Fola & Ideh [@sylviaidehuk ]
LNT Music Group [@LNTMusicGrp ]
R ‘n’ B, Soul, Pop, Hip-Hop
With so many R ‘n’ B and Soul acts- in the modern scene- declining (as their careers progress), Fola has a consistency and sense of evolution that stands him apart. From his early days, the London-based artist has grown and built his stature. Comfortable is a fine and addictive slice from an incredible talent- his cocktail of smooth and sexual soulfulness; catchy and rhythmic R ‘n’ B motifs make him a scintillating proposition
ONE of the best things about music is the sheer diversity and surprise…
it can provide. Having just reviewed a Hardcore/Punk band from Stoke, I now take my thoughts to an R ‘n’ B/Soul act from London. Two more distinct acts you could not find- there is nothing to connect them at all. I am going to mention a few points today; one revolves around Soul and R ‘n’ B. The genres are quite busy and well-represented- all sorts of different sounds can be heard. In terms of mainstream and popular appeal, there are few acts that resonate in the mind. With the ranks of the charts being dominated by effete and short-term appeal, the Soul and R ‘n’ B acts- that are in the charts- are not exactly the most heady and impressive. With the likes of Beyoncé perhaps having passed (their best days by), the job is left to fall onto the new generation- find acts that can come through and impress. Being a fan of Usher and Michael Jackson, I yearn to find acts that can unify and bond Soul, Pop and R ‘n’ B- draw in those glorious sounds and possibilities. When I scan around the music landscape, there are not many convincing artists that pull this off- there are one or two; they are in the minority. A lot of the mainstream- and new music- is dominated by Pop (pure and unadventurous), Indie and Rock- styles of music that fuse multiple sounds and emotions are not as widespread as they should be. Sam Smith and La Roux are two examples- I mention a lot- that have been able to melt Soul, R ‘n’ B and Pop together- in a riotous and colourful blend. It is a shame- it is not done more- as the results (when done right) can be tremendous and hugely evocative. If you look back at history; cast your mind to the ’80s and ’90s- just look at what the likes of Whitney Houston and Boyz II Men have produced- that incredible and emotive music; the sheer passion and genius. I have a few more small points to raise; for now, I will introduce my featured act:
“Inspired by the greats of the music world like: Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Boyz II Men, Brandy, Usher and Beyoncé, young Londoner singer/songwriter Fola is also set to make his mark in the world of music. Developing & perfecting his craft from the early ages of 11, Fola entered various talent competitions and showcases performing to different audiences around London. 2007 saw Fola branch out more by entering popular TV show The X-factor where he got through to bootcamp. The year also saw Fola tour with Grammy Award nominated singer Joshua Groban on his Awake UK tour. Fola continued to perform locally generating a following for himself as an artist. Writing and recording new original material was the next agenda for the talented singer. Fola began working with talented producers, songwriters and vocal arrangers like: Maleek Berry, DDark, J Warner, DavidB, SOS, Alex E and Richard Isongs, to create great music that would represent him well and showcase his deep, smooth, sultry vocals that set him apart from other singers on the scene today. Fola’s music has been described as mainstream r&b/pop music that is universal and highly relatable in content. Star was Fola’s first ever official single release in 2011 with UK MC/Producer DDark. The song was a pop/grime/electro club banger that did very well for both acts, opening more doors of opportunities as well as building their ever-growing fan base. Due to the great response from Star, from Dj’s across the country and fans, Fola decided to release his first solo project – GO. A mixtape consisting of some songs that he had been working on for the past 2 years prior to the release of Star. The mix-tape was a message driven body of work that dealt with love, independence and good times. In 2013 Fola decided to change his sound and go for a more acoustic driven project – After Green, released in the summer of 2013. The Mixtape was inspired by the Kinects – Fola’s fans. A lot of people took interest in Fola’s live acoustic act and wanted to hear more of that sound recorded. After Green saw the collaboration with Femi Vessel, guitarist and keyboardist from London. Fola also teamed up with Mr Damention for Swag Back, the first song from the mixtape. Swag was also produced by Femi Vessell. The mixtape also consisted of covers of Riahnna’s Diamonds and Chris Browns’ Don’t Judge Me. Beyonce’s I Miss You was also recorded following the success of his performance of the song on reload session, which generated huge interest on YouTube. Other producers that contributed to the project Akin The Producer (Diamonds & Don’t Judge Me) & Maleek Berry (Together, Open The Gates & Round & Round). Fola is now in a song writing duo called Pensouls with singer/songwriter David B. Both have been writing for other artists and Fola’s new up and coming EP – Promise Land set to be released in 2014. Fola has also formed a close collaboration with producer Villi ‘V Beats’ Mambu. The Open The Gates singer just recently signed to GMG Music Management, and is set to do great things in the future. Promise Land EP is a more mature, smooth sensual side and explores r&b/pop/soul styled music.“
Male solo artists are producing some mixed results- over this last year. The solo market in general is among the most exciting and prosperous- the best of the breed are deeply impressive. Having so many sole acts on the scene, the overall consistency and quality is not as high as it should be. Perhaps feeling the weight of expectation; maybe not showcasing enough range and diversity, the current crop are a mixed bag. The very finest artists have been causing salivation and deep impressions- this is especially true of new acts. Fola is a musician that is definitely not capable of disappointing or being meagre- his ambition and flair is cementing him as a name to watch. With his E.P. Promise Land arriving soon, the mature and sensual concoctions he elicits are causing seduction and effusive praise. Not only does the London-based star explore his soulful and sexual side- up-tempo and crackling R ‘n’ B snaps are experimented with. A fully-rounded and ambitious act, he is going to be making serious waves in years to come. In spite of the fact he has appeared on reality TV- a subject that causes me to rant and scream- Fola has developed into a credible and unique artist- someone who is determined not be seen as just another Pop-cum-Soul act. His mobility and changing sounds have seen him develop and improve- since his earliest days, he has grown more confident, assured and striking. In terms of new music, there are a few acts that fuse similar sounds and experiences- as Fola- into their music- few do it with such a sense of occasion and conviction. One of the most bold and memorable solo artists coming through, the young Londoner will be sure to reap critical acclaim- from the release of his E.P. Before I move on, I want to explore the issue of London music. Over the last few weeks, artists from RKZ to Dana McKeon have come under my radar- both acts take their motifs and inspirations from the street. RKZ’s Rap and Spoken-Word gems are literal and intelligent; draw in paragons of modern-day existence around love and ambition- he is one of the most exciting and talented musicians around. Dana McKeon’s Beatbox-Pop looks at ambition and dreams- her incredible vocal abilities are stirred in a melting pot of incredible sounds. The capital is promoting a great deal of fervent and daring Urban-influenced acts- musicians that give a great and authoritative representation of modern Britain. Fola has his heart in similar avenues; his social consciousness and observations mingle with heartfelt love songs and codas of passion- marking himself out as one of London’s best artists. Having recently been ensconced in a musical slump, London is starting to revive and inspire: other parts of the U.K. have been stealing focus throughout 2014. With a fresh and hungry wave of (phenomenal) artists pouring forth, eyes are being trained back at London- the ancestral home of some of history’s greatest musical moments. The various scenes, sights and sensations are compelling (musicians here)- leading to some wonderfully-realised songs and albums. Fola is a man on a mission: an artist that wants to cover as much ground as possible; record music for as long as he can. His initial and early works have been met with adulation and respect; he is increasing his potential and quality with every new movement (he unveils)- this natural evolution is going to be exciting to see. Comfortable is a typically confident and memorable slice from the young star- a perfect representation as to what his E.P. will contain. New music is tempting in a lot of eager and excitable musicians- each keen to present their songs to the public. In so much as they require market share and backing, they also need some inspirational drive- acts that have proved themselves and can give guidance. With a drive and talent that demands close investigation, Fola is sure to be a valuable reference to up-and-coming musicians- many will be able to take notes from the young star’s current endeavours.
For a greater appreciation of Fola’s present, it is worth dipping back into his past. Having recorded so many different tracks- sometimes with other acts- there is a great and vast range to choose from. Having developed and changed since his early days, tracks like Living A Lie are some of his earliest attempts. That track has an atmospheric and haunting beginning. Sensual and romantic vocals back evocative and scenic lyrics. As the vocals are layered and built up, our hero is keeping his feelings inside- he has been hurt by his sweetheart but does not let the pain out. Prince’s early-career ideas come out in the track; those smooth and hypnotic vocal sounds come forth- supported by rampant and primal beats. Trip-Hop and R ‘n’ B elements unit to whip up atmospheric and soulful blends- it is a stunning statement from the young artist. Antarctica is pummeling and urgent- rushing and clapping electronics beckon the song forth. The vocals stutter and tease; promulgate different emotions- lustful and pained come through to varying degrees. Smooth and gorgeous, the performance looks at the changes of life and love. Drawing some hints of Usher and Michael Jackson, the track is catchy and danceable. Crackling and sparkling with life, it is bolstered by an impressive and polished production. Fola went on to build his reputation with I’m Here. The song marries Eastern-sounding strings- Asian sounds come out- and a sensualised and silky vocal. The beats are more sparse- punchier and more packing in potency. Emotive lyrics and insights give the song many layers and shades. At the heart, our hero wants to support a girl- throw his arms out and provide comfort. Showcasing tenderness and thoughtfulness, our man is there for her- keen to get her through tough times. Taking Off features the talents of Jamkilla- a song that has more robotic and processed moments. The vocals are put through computers; fractured and echoing, there is an oddly detached and anodyne sound that comes through. This does not equate to poor quality at all- the song comes through urgently and insistently. Displaying shades of current R ‘n’ B and Soul, it is a fresh and vibrant cut (from terrific collaborative talents). When the mixtape After Green arrived, it saw our hero increase his ambitions and desires. Round and Round shows some karmic retribution and Golden Rule equality- the breathy and sighing beginnings are a tantalising and intriguing injection. The modern and cutting-edge production values give the song shine and clarity- it is emotive and full-bodied. Female vocal input creates a more rounded and diverse feel; the distinct tones parabond marvelously and elicit a lot of romance and sexuality. Beautiful and impressive, it is a fine number. Open The Gates is another highlight- a soft and building start reminds me of Whitney Houston and Destiny’s Child. Mixing in some aspects of Prince and Boyz II Men, the song unites threads of ’80s/’90s U.S. Soul with some current R ‘n’ B sounds. Whereas Round and Round looked to the future and the cessation of mankind- among other thoughts- here there is spark and a glowing heart. Retaining that distinct sound and personality, it is a track perfect for the warm summer evenings- when you want to sit back and unwind. Bringing us more to the present moment, Hitting The Road is another gem. A rushing and urgent intro. sees build and development occur. The vocal is insistent and lower-down; mixing greater tonal range and diversity, we see our hero’s vocal range come to the fore. Direct and swelling, the chorus is a catchy and insatiable thing. Backed by juddering and vibrant electronics, it sees a bold and confident leap forwards- our man keen to develop and expand his sound and artistry. The Way You Are is a sensual and soft track- vibrating and machine-rendered vocals have some Usher-flavoured tones. Modern-day R ‘n’ B rawness fuses with classic and vintage Soul soothe. Comfortable continues the quality and sense of adventurousness. Mixing flavours and sounds into the mix, it is a cinematic and fully-rounded beast. More insistent and catchy, the vocal is more natural and unfettered. Beats here get your feet moving and tapping; the smooth and chocolately vocal turn spars sexy with urgent. His finest cut to date, the song is a bold and impressive statement from a mobile and hungry musician- someone who never fails to surprise and impress. Over the course of a couple of years, Fola has managed to draw in a range of influences and ideas- his newest incarnation is as unique and individual as anything. While there are embers of Usher, Whitney Houston and Boyz II Men, it is hard to compare the track with anything else- its freshness and striking memorability lodges the notes in your brain. Fola is keen to melt some familar sensations with his own inimitable voice- his songwriting is distinct and original as any I have heard. Whilst it sits well with the best mainstream examples of R ‘n’ B and Soul, its Pop sensibilities and undertones mean it cannot be defined and confined- the song will strike a chord with a myriad of different listeners. Incredibly insatiable and addictive, it provides a captivating glimpse into what the imminent E.P. will possess- a tableau of excellence from one of this country’s most ambitious and hard-working musicians. It will be great to see where Fola goes from here- whether he stays with his current sound or develops it further. The honing and consecrations have led to his most stirring and impressive songs to date- I would be loathed to suggest improvements or changes. Having matured and learnt as a singer, Fola is now starting to come across as a bona fide star-in-the-making. More confident and alive than ever before, you can hear the passion and meaning come through- his performance on Comfortable is as tight and impactful as anything else. This all bodes well for the future months- it will see the young star transcend to the mainstream and cause excitable ripples. Over the last few years, we have seen a lot happen for Fola- his music and personal developments have enforced his music and direction. Drawing in some sound new avenues and ideas, that hypnotising concoction of smoother-edged R ‘n’ B magnanimously joins with fizzing and scintillating Pop crackle- the deep and soothing Soul swathes make the music so compelling and nuanced. I am sure there will be another E.P.- or album- due in 2015- a great opportunity to see just what the young master can come up with. The here and now is where we are- the elliptical, effusive and inspiring offerings are gaining momentum and huge praise. Guaranteed to soundtrack your summer, Comfortable is the concentration and distillation of all Fola’s multitudinous strands- a vibrant tapestry from a very innovative and daring artist.
Although Fola is a distinct and fresh voice, he does dip into music’s past- inspired by some of the greats of music. One of the most treasured icons- for Fola- and distinct names is Michael Jackson. When looking back at Fola’s early work, I could detect signs of the King of Pop. The best Jackson album- to use as a reference point- is Off the Wall. One of Jackson’s lesser-renowned works- it did scoop Grammy awards- some of its most emotive and sensual moment have resonated with Fola. The 1979 masterwork was the first true work of genius (from Jackson). Songs such as the title track and She’s Out of My Life are classics that have aged incredibly well; Rock with You is an insatiable and upbeat jam- Working Day and Night is a classic cut that is under-appreciated among music listeners. Although Off the Wall did not make the same strides as Thriller, it was a hugely impressive disc. The album remains a slick and authoritative R ‘n’ B/Pop hybrid- a seamless and wonderful fusion that is the leader of the breed. With a Disco-flavoured slant, the album marked a huge leap of maturity- gone were the immature and naive cores to be replaced by something harder and more grown-up. The class and epic grooves that spill out of Jackson’s album have compelled and inspired generations of new acts- Jackson’s style and technique (as a singer) were cemented and augmented. Voting committees and the press were more ambivalent- than Jackson would have hoped. Thinking the album deserved much wider acclaim- he has a point- that spurned his burning ambition to impress and seduce- ensuring critics did not ignore him, the thrills on Thriller left no-one in doubt. Fola instills a lot of Off the Wall‘s majesty and styles. That similar maturity and edginess comes through in his music; his singing technique and projection mixes sleek and smooth with jagged and rugged- the boy and man personas tussle and wrestle with one another. Songs like Comfortable combine heartfelt sentiments with some knife-edge thrills and slices. Jackson marked himself out as a gifted and peerless vocalist- on the album- and used that elasticity to bring life to each song. Fresh and vibrant, tracks like She’s Out of My Life and Get on The Floor remain solid works of genius. Strong melodies, rhythmic hooks and the dazzling production galvanised the album- Quincy Jones and Jackson’s mix of Disco beats and funky guitars added life and layers to all of the tracks. Fola imbues his songs with similar consideration and depth- making sure snatches of different genres and instruments add intrigue to the surroundings; Jacko has had a clear effect. When looking at other legends of song, the likes of Stevie Wonder come to mind. When I consider a Wonder album to introduce- I can parallel with Fola- it would be Innervisions. Perhaps the closest-sounding album (to Fola’s sound), it remains a real and personal collection of tracks. Wonder is the central genius that everything else revolves around- his inventiveness and range of movements is quite astonishing. Taking in the likes of Blues, Soul, Folk and black music means the disc is a compelling masterpiece. So much depth and knowledge went into it- you can tell just how cultured and astute each note and thought is. Not keen to micro-manage, Wonder mixes the lyrical and didactic into one- his lack of literal vision is heightened in the glaring clarity and sight of his music. Themes range from real-world problems to subjugation and entrapment- the young master looks at the poison of the city; the lies we tell children; the ill effects of drugs. Fola has a similar knowledge and love of music: having incorporated so many different genres into past work; on his current offering he solidifies and tightens this natural affinity and talent. Having a vision for emotional resonance and passionate depth, he makes sure all of his songs differ and do not overlap- the range of topics he explores is phenomenal. The narrative catchiness of Innverision‘s finest tracks marries hard-scrabble cautionary tales with stunningly startling commentaries. Fola has been inspired by the likes of Stevie Wonder: the way he deftly intertwines pressing issues with melodic resonance is highly effective and uplifting. Maybe many would not think that Whitney Houston has had an effect on Fola- she definitely has. One of the most captivating and applauded artists of our time, her finest work remains My Love Is Your Love. Whilst her Whitney album was perhaps a bit more personal and immediate, her 1998 startle hit harder with listeners and critics. The mature consistency on the album marked a career high-point- the mixture of survivor instinct-cum-heartfelt lover makes everything sound so elemental and imploring. The music transformed into something less rigid and more supple- Houston introduced vocal improvisations and fewer restrained boundaries (to her performances). The album showcased how effortless she commingled Disco, Dance, Pop and R ‘n’ B together- sometimes within the same song. The L.P. does have some old-fashioned sludge; for the most part the crossover appeal and potential cemented it as a modern classic. It is the emotion and conviction- Houston injects in every song- that makes her such a hugely influential singer. Able to hit heady heights and seduce when events are calmer, her emotional spectrum is only matched by her impassioned and gripping voice. Fola tends not to let his voice belt and operate as emphatically- he is more effective and distinct when letting his crooning and smooth side work. There are five more names and artists I will list; before that, D’Angelo sticks in mind. The Neo-Soul legends has inspired legions of modern-day singers- in no small part due to his dynamic and electrifying range. Brown Sugar was the album that introduced the world to D’Angelo. Mixing ’70s Prince with Smokey Robinson, critics were impressed by the updated sounds and lack of over-familiarity. The revolutionary rebel sees R ‘n’ B revitalised and reinvigorated: dosed with a spoonful of kick and passion, Brown Sugar remains one of the most important album of the ’90s. D’Angelo looked back at the legends of Soul and injects Hip-Hop potency into older sounds. Later in his career, D’Angelo forsook bootylicious for disquiet and evocation; he did not succumb to tune-and-hook- it was the blueprint for post-Soul music. Incorporating Vaudeville-Memphis, Ragtime-Blues fusion and Jazz notations, the Voodoo album (D’Angelo’s 2000 work) was his masterpiece. Before I elicit a quartet of legends, I will mention a big influence- for Fola- Boyz II Men. The U.S. vocal harmony group started out bombastically with Cooleyhighharmony. The production saw throwback elements infused with contemporary stylisations- the “Hip-Hop Doo-Wop” group put a collegiate spin on the traditions of Doo-Wop. Imbuing everything with a modern edge, the boys (or Boyz) sparred swinging anthemics with tender and rousing emotional ballads- letting their incomparable and unmatched vocals do the talking. Libidnal melisma, swaggering arms-aloft stutter and sonic cherry bombs came out in the album- something that was expanded upon on future albums. Although the U.S. legends received mixed critical reception- following their early albums- you cannot deny the effect II had. Their finest hour, the album sees high-soaring jams ensuring crowd-pleasing moments. The slower numbers are the ones that resonated the hardest- when the group mixed their stunning tones together. Fola draws in a lot of Boyz II Men’s best aspects: his soft and emotive vocals elicit the same sort of chills as Boyz’; he is able to soar and seduce- reflect and introvert. Possessing the same smooth and sweet tones; the updated versions of vintage sounds- Fola is a modern-day distillation of Boyz II Men. Whilst unable to summon up the same army of vocals, our London hero does include just as much emotional weight and soulfulness. When he brings the lights down- on the more soaring and romantic numbers- that is when you hear the familiarities. Continuing the run of U.S.-born influences, Prince is another name- that you can draw with Fola. When listening to Fola’s past work; his vocal acrobatics and incredible collages of tones- I could hear some mid-career Prince. Two Prince albums come to my thoughts- when looking at Fola’s work. Purple Rain is the first of his albums (I will mention). Lauded as a work of genius, the album must have featured on Fola’s young mind. Although the L.P. delves into Rock and Heavy Metal territory, that experimental and unrestrained sense of ambition can be compared with Fola. Hard and funky beats- on Purple Rain– sat with majestic ballads and Neo-Psychedelic oeuvres. Fola- in his previous incarnations- has introduced Funk-laden moments with eerie and more potent sounds. When listening to Comfortable, I caught a D.N.A. mix of Take Me With U and Computer Blue– maybe some of When Doves Cry‘s luster is there too. Prince hits home hardest- with me at least- when he is in more sensual and romantic territory. When his voice slinks and whispers, you get some of his most potent offerings. The Gold Experience is a Prince album that I can compare with Fola. The stripped-down Funk and delicate balladry made thew album so emphatic; the dynamic range- seen throughout the album- impressed fans hugely. If you listen to wonders like The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, you get a stunning and spine-tingling love song. Prince introduces some of his highest and lowest notes; the breadth and depth of his passion and panache- it is a Philly Soul tribute that grips at your soul. The tightness and array of sounds made The Gold Experience such a joy- the scintillating stories and confidence displayed cannot be faulted. Fola has demonstrated his versatility and dynamism in his past work; on Comfortable he elicits the same purity, beauty, power and curiosity (as seen in The Gold Experience‘s finest moments). The final trio of influential guides are Brandy, Usher and Beyoncé. Brandy is an artist most of us have heard of- maybe few listen to regularly. The American hit her initial peak on Never Say Never. That album saw a mingling of Adult-Contemporary with streetwise edges. Subdued and smooth vocals made her lyrics- some of which were distinctly below-par- urgent and essential. The pizzazz and charm that radiated throughout the album was only bested by a unique mix of jaded emotions and gleeful outpouring. The quality of the songs and production elevate the album beyond easy criticism and derision- the sense of adventure and ambition mark it out as a solid and impressive work. Fola has more consistency and quality (than Brandy) yet does instill some of her hallmarks and elements. His fusions of streetwise and soft make his songs so deep and compelling; the soulful and uplifting deliveries make all of his words so compulsive and necessary. Usher is a favourite of mine; someone who has inspired the Comfortable star. My Way is perhaps the best of Usher’s earliest works- the album that saw the ambitious pretender hit the big leagues. Tracks such as You Make Me Wanna… stood out in the imagination- that sexy and seductive lick is hard to overlook. Refined, tasteful and gentle; the album was a sensual and mild-tone work. Sweet-natured and not too one-minded, the album showcased a distinct and defined personal voice- one that was threatening to explode (on previous albums). Throughout the years, Usher has been developing his style and projection- there are fewer down-tempo numbers (on recent works) than his early career. The refreshing offerings on discs such as Here I Stand stand up to repeated listens- that album shows Usher more matured and destined for dancefloor pantheons. While a lot of R ‘n’ B purveyors- of the ’90s and ’00s- came across as atrabilious and uninspired; Usher developed and reinvented himself. The king of R ‘n’ B, Usher shows- on every album- just what a force he is; all backed by that indisputably glorious voice. Fola has changed and evolved just as much (as Usher)- keen to remain fresh and inspired. Having covered bachelor boy days and grown-up reflections, the Londoner has managed to defy expectations and protocol. The last name I shall mention is Beyoncé. Perhaps an unexpected influence, the U.S. giant confounded critics on her Beyoncé album. Having solidified her reputation, few were expecting something so scintillating and vital. Sexed-up falsettos and ramped-up emotions sat with effortless swoops and determined and defiant rebellion. Although Fola does not tread the same feminist lines, he does contain and present the same swooping and sexed-up swathes- able to unite diverse sounds and make them sound utterly compelling. Gospel power and Hip-Hop flow goes into his music; his technical range and emotional depth can be compared to Beyoncé- a singer that is regarded as one of the most talented on the modern scene. Loose song structures and sexuality marked Beyoncé as a triumph- made for the clubs and contemporary venues, every track seemed like an essential and pressing made-for-radio hit. Sonically experimental and clashes of emotions married bold exploration and self-examination- topped off with music that drew in as many men as women. Not megolomanical and braggadocio, Beyoncé’s feminist presentations were not crafted to rebel against potential listeners- they were aimed at attracting as many as possible. Monogamy, romance, heartache and mixed-message come-ons united metaphorical with literal. Fola is uncompromising when it comes to emotions and barriers- his music dips as deep and ambitiously as Beyoncé’s. If you are a fan of any of the artists above; not overly-keen on any of them, then do not fear- Fola is an act that is as distinct and individual as any. Only incorporating the touches and shades of his idols, the abiding sound is one created by a striking and special talent.
A futuristic and blissed-out vibe heralds Comfortable in. Psychedelic and spacey electronics wail and echo- it is a smooth and intriguing rapture that begins things with a heady and insatiable kick. Joined by finger-clicks, the parable starts to relent and calm- romantic strings are introduced in the background to offer serenity. Right up until the initial vocal offerings, the composition is kept busy and layered. Elements of Soul, R ‘n’ B and Pop are married alongside (slightly) heavier elements. When our hero does approach the mic., his voice is determined and urgent. Speaking to his sweetheart, he is in romanticised and supportive mood. Whatever happens with her; if there are any issues at all, our man is “gonna be right by your side.” As the night draws in, the mood starts to get sexier and slinkier. The vocal is velvety and entrancing; switching from Prince-inspired sounds to a darker and more chocolate-toned line- the combination of vocals (Fola’s) gives the song an additional weight and sense of occasion. You can picture the scenes and sights that are unfolding. As he directs to his woman, the lights are dimmed and the night draws in. Always being there for her, our hero will “give it all to you“- if she wants to party and dance then he will follow her. That sense of satisfaction and romantic intention is clear; the sensuality and electricity of the performance never relents. The production is polished and clear enough to allow the vocal to shine; it does not bury the compositional layers too deeply. The percussive beats crackle and spark; the swathes of Soul-tinged electronics keep the sweat and sultriness very much alive. If his sweetheart wants to move her body way down, then the night is primed for that- whatever the mood and situation dictates; our hero is by her side and ready to accompany her. There is no pressure and forcefulness; that relaxation and freedom enforces the sound. Against the scenes of late-night adventure and action, the supportive sounds layer and build. The vocals weave in and out of one another; tripping and spiraling, the energy and fascination grows by the second. Supported by atmospheric and kinetic compositional crackles; Comfortable grows ever headier. The title is the abiding point and message- our hero just wants his girl to be comfortable. Not just training his thoughts to the bedroom, Fola does not succumb to male intuition- the most predominant aspects of a lot of R ‘n’ B artists. As a female vocal is offered in- to bring the heroine to life- an additional aspect of beauty is presented. Her sweet and sensual tones blend perfectly with Fola. The duo work with one another and ensure an elliptical and scintillating unity- one that perfectly gets inside of your head. Having been washed up in the swathes and waves of sound; the enraptured and imploring vocals- the next verse arrives. Our hero restrains his desires to offer up some sage advice. Scenes and sets are drawn into the song. The girl is very much on (Fola’s) mind and arresting his desires; his movie queen sweetheart is making his mind and thoughts spin- wanting to “kill the scene“, the sexual tension grows once more. There is long-term ambition and intent in our hero’s thoughts; wanting the girl for more than a night, he seems to be in the throes of love- perhaps her alluring and unforgettable charm is settled inside his heart. When the vocals- once more- slither and slink inside one another, you catch glimmers of other artists. Being inspired by the likes of Boyz II Men, Michael Jackson- having elements of Prince to his sound too- that adds enormous potency to the voice. Able to weave in that same captivating fascination (Prince pioneered), the sexiness and stunning range; the smooth and delirious harmonies of Boyz II Men- the crackle and snap of Michael Jackson. Mixtures of high and low notes mingle with a range of different emotions- lust and desire sit with mature and restrained offerings. Caught up in the multifarious and uplifting vocal combinations, the song never stops fascinating and overwhelming- its rushes and energy mandate the listener to become involved in the song; get their feet tapping and let the music take them away. Comfortable has a great vintage vibe to it: uniting the classic Soul and R ‘n’ B sounds of the ’70s and ’80s- the Pop magic of the ’80s and early-’90s- it fuses modern-day and current sounds. The way Usher updates older and more established cuts- with a veneer of modern shine- makes him such an authoritative and legendary figure. These are the same qualities that can be applied to Fola. His voice and music could easily fit in the halcyon days of Soul; just as relevant to the music of 2014, it is an intoxicating and detailed blend. Among the scenes and proclamations of sensuality, the hero allows his mature and protective side to come out. All of the other men- who have messed his girl around- have left her bruised and cynical- our man is the only one that will keep her safe and not let her down. You believe the words that come forth. In part this is down to the performance and conviction that emanates; largely it is because there is no good reason to lie. Having taken in everything that has come before; the directness of the words- the latest revelations and promises seem natural and wholly viable. Because of this, the song gains extra credibility and weight. Lesser artists would either bog their songs down in innuendo and sexual ruminations or else come across as saccharine and desperate. Fola seamlessly blends emotions so that a perfect balance is created: you are rooting for him (and his girl) to be together; hoping that his intentions are true. At no point does the song seem disingenuous or ineffective. In the chorus, the vocals rise and layer; high and sweet utterances bond with low-down and silken projections. Towards the final stages, you have more of the story (and facts) at your disposal; the luxuriant and devilish glee keeps gripping the soul- the track never lets its sense of magic and impressiveness dip. Even when the vocal ends- and the outro. comes into effect- you are hooked and immersed. Finishing with a cocktail of snapping beats and languorous, aching strings- the track comes to its conclusion. Having packed so much into his agenda, Comfortable is a scintillating and hugely memorable track that struggles to remove itself from your brain.
Being a new convert to the wonders of Fola, I have spent a few hours investigating his back catalogue and beginnings. Some of his early track hints at the promise shown on Comfortable. To my mind his latest cut is the ultimate testament to his true talents and potential. Never has he produced so an urgent, honest and impassioned track- the Londoner means serious business. Before I commend Fola’s various distinctions and talents, it is worth reflecting on the track. The production values are incredible throughout. There are no detractions I could hint at; everything is mixed and blended perfectly. Sometimes there is a lack of clarity in the vocals- some of the lyrics get passed over because of over-urgency and pace. A similar fate has befallen solo singer George Ezra. His album has taken a slight knock because of similar issues. Some of his lines and songs are delivered with too much speed and urgency- meaning words can run into one another and lose their clarity. It is not a huge issue or problem to worry about- the busy and packed composition sometimes becomes a little over-zealous and pressing. In spite of some minuscule dents, the overall sound is one that grips and impresses hugely. The production does not come across as too polished and perfected- there is plenty of room for raw emotion and passion to come through. Having the sound and flavour of an old-school R ‘n’ B track, Fola seems at home and natural here. The brilliant inclusion of past masters- and their voices- bonds with current and contemporary vibes- the ensuing concoction is a mesmeric and scintillating one. The backing vocals add a huge amount of passion, delicacy, sweetness and sensuality. Seductive and breathy at times; heavy and hot the next, you become enraptured by the beauty and sparks that are elicited. It is worth focusing on the man himself; investigating his roles. Comfortable contains some concise and impressive lyrics. Never juvenile or ineffective, they are tight and well-considered- mixing honest and mature sentiments with libidinous lust, they defy expectations. A lot of modern-day artists are derided due to their lack of depth and lyrical ability; their pen often is not as sharp as their voice- Fola does not suffer this same setback. His words are as crackling and rich as his tones; lines and scenes mix detailed with oblique; they are direct and lush one moment; sparse and free-form the next. Demonstrating an ear for story and pace; an authority and love of classic R ‘n’ B and Soul kings, he mixes this into Comfortable- a song that is packed with detail and fascination. The composition keeps busy and mobile; it never lets seems to slow or lose its momentum. From the introductory crackles and pops, stylistic shifts are presented; multiple genre sounds are thrown in- it is a rich and variegated composition. When our hero lets his voice swoon and seduce, the composition is appropriately smooth and sensualised- kicking back and ensuring every note hits its mark. When electrified and urgent, the music matches this level of luster- strings and beats augment and rise in partnership. It is the vocal itself that impresses the most. Making every word sound convincing and utterly essential, Fola provides his more assured and stunning performance to date. Gone are the vocal treatments and Auto-Tune moments; the sound and sensation is of a naked and unmodified voice- one that packs an incredible punch. Taking in some sensations of Prince and Usher, the mixture of sweetened falsetto and velvet sensuality elicits some terrific reactions. Weaving and changing projection, the vocal matches the mobility and unexpectedness of the composition itself- making sure the song is insanely fresh and gripping. Overall you are left with a track that seems perfectly suited for the summer weather. It has such an insatiable and relaxing vibe, it is perfect for those lazy days and beach-side parties; able to soundtrack epic drives and long journeys, it is a song that has no boundaries. Able to unify balkanized clans of music-lovers, it supersedes and breaks barriers- it is not a song restricted to club members of R ‘n’ B and Soul. The relentless passion and elliptical promise (the track provides) means it is a ubiquitous and universal slice- a number that reminds you of better times.
A lot of my own cynicisms have been dispelled and eradicated. When I look at an artist’s biography- and see the words ‘X Factor‘ mentioned within- I am predisposed to balk and scoff with derision. It is understandable: my sense of irritability and rage is shared by the majority. Fola is an artist that has caused some creative inspiration and direction- my own music has been given a kick of new life. There are a lot of artists- on the scene- who project R ‘n’ B-cum-Soul machinations; sprinkle in some Pop gold-dust- ensure the resultant hybrid is as exciting as possible. Few contemporaries have a flair and quality that marks them aside from their peers- Fola is a talent with a clear identity and instantly resonating music. Comfortable is a cool and seductive slab that is impossible not to like- it has hallmarks of past giants, whilst retaining a very modern and personal voice. The London-based artist is going to make moves the rest of this year- including the release of his E.P.; make sure you keep your eyes peeled and trained. Being a fan and devotee of the likes of Michael Jackson and Smokey Robinson, I can hear that same blend of power, sweetness, passion and raw emotion- the deep and mesmeric words; the catchy and addictive codas- there is no reason to suggest Fola should restrict his sites and ambitions. With the music industry being tightly-packed and jostling, it is important to ensure those with genuine potential are given breathing room- allowed to move and grow with little repression. I have not heard all of Promise Land– I have surveyed the full body of Fola’s past. Seeing a development and evolution, the young star is getting stronger and more determined with each release- he is not contended to stick with one voice and style; changing and developing his art in accordance with his inspirations and desires. As I said up top: London is starting showcase some immensely promising musical talent. Having been suitably blown away by Dana McKeon’s blend of Beatbox-Pop and Soul, I did not think the capital had the ability to surprise and confound- bring out more acts like Fola and we shall see something incredible happening. Musicians- located elsewhere- are progressing and relocating to London; their itinerant and sojourn ambitions are seeing them settle and rest in the capital. It seems like the burning and white-hot hub for creativity and inspiration: an area of the world where so many different styles and genres are being represented. I do not think reality/talent shows are the most evil thing in the world; they are at least wholly unnecessary and cancerous- the artists that win the contests have provided no difference and quality to the music industry; their disposability and brevity is highly irritating. The acts that choose to do things honestly and without motive- the only reason you go on a talent show is for shallow fame and publicity- are going to be the ones the public will embrace and proffer. Too few innovative and surprising musicians arrive in the mainstream- new music tends to offer the best choice and sense of ambition. It will be fascinating to see what Fola does next- whether he brings out an L.P. or reinvents himself; takes his music across the world or focuses his energies on the here and now- whatever he has in mind, it is likely to be met with support and excitement. Before I wrap things up- and prime my mind for a new act and sound- I want to offer up some advice and tips- for new acts coming through. So many samey and predictable Indie bands get filtered through- the vague and unpalatable sludge that forms is causing tarnish and depression. Being a well-represented genre, a lot of the public are turning their attentions elsewhere- looking for music that differs and provides unfamiliar sensation. With the exception of some noticeable and well-known mainstream (and newly-bred Soul and R ‘n’ B artists), they are few and far between. When the alchemy is perfected; that potion and concoction is mixed with the right balance of ingredients, something wonderful can be stirred- strike the balance of sexiness and restrain and you are onto a winner. Comfortable is a song that has a soothing and sweaty heart; its soul is emotional and determined; its tongue sharpened and sexualised- the combustible coloured sands are mesmerising and eye-catching indeed. If you are unfamiliar with Fola and his past work- make sure you set time aside and investigate it with full creativity. His forthcoming E.P. is a bold statement from a deeply exciting and talented proposition- an artist that gives the music world an infusing slice of salacious cool and red-hot vibrancy. His voice and delivery is hard to ignore; his words universal and personal (all at once). If you are stuck for ideas this weekend…
LET Fola’s magic take your mind away.
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