Klef Notes

Music Reviews

James Bakian “The Singles 2018” (London, England)

James Bakian, the new face of Indie music who has been making waves in the UK and USA, keeps it moving and fresh.  Always the innovator, Bakian stays in that “what’s next” frame of mind contemplating how to slide the envelope off of the table and keep his fans guessing (and interested). 

We first met the singer/songwriter/musician during my review of his single “Unstoppable” (December 2017) and then a fuller scope was placed on the artist with my full review of the “Unstoppable” EP (February 2018). 

Fresh off the reel-to-reel comes some of Bakian’s most recent work to which I have entitled “The Singles 2018!”  Five tracks that will keep you engaged, enthralled, and energized.  This is a capsule review of singles: “Seven Infections,” “Usual,” “Praying,” “About You,” and “Ice Cold.” 

The somber yet stirring “Seven Infections” kicks off this mini collection and it features Bakian singing in a low register with minimal effects and minimal instrumentation.  The lyrical storyline depicts a man who has finally shaken his seven infections: “anger, depression, anxiety, aggression, misery, pain, and fear” and how liberating it is to let go of being sick in any form be it mental, physical, or spiritual.  A clock tower chime echoes in the background giving off a celebratory impression and further illustrates this outcome.

“Seven Infections” is a great less is more track and gives way for the listener to really feel the melody and how it musically clocks down in its execution further defining the lyrics.  Though very different from Bakian’s more driven pieces, “Seven Infections” allow his fans to see the full scope of his range and writing style.  Originally, improvised on the piano, Bakian liked its evolution and went ahead to complete its composition – so glad he did!

Next, we have the R&B House ballad “Usual” which follows a different, yet refreshing, formula:  1)  Bakian chose to open the track with the hook which sings “you’re not acting usual / something’s on your mind / yeah we all got our problems / but we bury them inside / acting like you’re strong ‘ when your heart’s dead and gone / baby it’s all wrong / yeah.“   2)  He features a muted lyric that is laced with Bosa Nova bass licks and this is combined with Samba instrumentation – all of which keeps a kind of sultry flow to the overall beat.  And 3) Bakian is almost doing a splice between an R&B melody in the background combined with a sort of Hip-Hop spit in his leads.  It’s a crazy, off the cuff, mix of different instrumentations, lyrical flow, and tempo, but it works.  This thrice unfamiliar combination of sorts makes for a nice, soothing, yet impulsive track, and it further shows how Bakian is not afraid to push the envelop and make a HIT – very cool.  “Usual” has great commercial appeal. 

The third single “Praying” is a musical homage to youths affected by mental health issues and how prayer is a great catharsis to provide encouragement and strength.  Bakian’s emotional delivery combined with a crisp piano and violins really pull at your heart strings, but this is not fake sentiments used just for effect, these are honest emotions.  The words evoke how life is worth living when Bakian sings “if you’re looking for a better way / I’m telling you, you gotta pray / for a light / that flicker in your eyes / hold on to your life.”  In light of the tragic consequences dealing with youth globally, it was great to hear proactive thinking put into words focusing on inspiring, encouraging, and hope.  A great nod to healing through faith. 

“About You” is a classic R&B track with a modern bounce.  Its premise is about a guy’s feeling towards his lady and how she makes him feel.  Bakian sings, “Every time I look at you / I wonder if you got a clue / how I feel about you / feel about you / just look at that view . . . I’ll be takin’ care of you one day.”  This cut follows the classic outline of R&B tracks back in the day where a man proclaimed his love for his woman and wanted the entire universe to realize what he has.  Even Bakian’s trills, runs, and harmonies are on point.  This is great to hear again.  Here’s the video:  

On that note, when I read the comments posted on You Tube regarding “About You” posted under the video (which had a clever production BTW), some listeners had a different take on Bakian’s leads and his use of echo and reverb.  I see how they can come to this conclusion but let me interject a different view on Bakian’s method of recording his leads in this fashion.  

I feel as though Bakian was reaching for this effect to switch up his technique and I feel he has nailed it.  As a first attempt, it is done well, and it translates through the entire song with quality.  Therefore, one must give the artist credit for at least trying a new feat and accomplishing it as it did do “About You” song-justice.  In addition, staying further from the mic to record the vocal as well as laying the lead and backing track with reverb, balances the final listen and it gives a nice nostalgic contemporary R&B vibe to this track.  

Taking a listen to R&B bands of the 1990s era, like Color Me Badd or Bobby Brown’s “Don’t Be Cruel,” you will hear a similar technique and effect called New Jack Swing.  The listening audience loved it so much they ate it up.  And for Bakian to reawaken this New Jack Swing style in 2018 with “About You” was a great attempt for this artist – it’s an entire new dimension that he has conquered.  This track is going to do well as it is just one of those feel good tracks that makes the end of the work day alright.  Imagine this (and my R&B female fans will attest to this):  you get home after work, pour a glass of wine, put your feet up, and just chill to some old school, but modern R&B.  Yeah?  That’s “About You” all over.  

Which brings us to the final track of this collection “Ice Cold.”  A song about second chances whose lyrics really support its interpretation, the lyrics read, “Build up strength to live a day yeah / all you want is to escape yeah / don't let words intoxicate you / we all get deserted sometimes / cause you're ice cold / and it's making you bad / but you deserve a chance / and we all make our mistakes / but they are just mis-takes / we don't catch the message / so we all get sad.”  Bakian lunged right into Soul and R&B on this cut starting the song with a sort of musical stutter and allowed the beat to build giving an effect of apprehension.  Moreover, he merges musical pull-backs with aggressive melodic highs and does it well.  From the attitude in his lead, to the varied vocal effects, on to constant command to the beat, this track has texture and an enjoyable flow.  There was nothing done accidental on this track – this is intentional ah-someness. 

James Bakian began his career by performing many cover tunes, but now we can see and hear that he has evolved into a very eclectic artist where his original tracks far outweigh the cover tunes.  

Bakian told me that he wrote, produced, played the instruments (keys/bass guitar) as well as sang every vocal on every one of these tracks. 

Far from boring, I feel that this capsule collection of the most recent five singles from James Bakian alludes to his musical course.  He has finally found his niche in Soul and R&B as he is so chill and natural on the hooks, beats, scales, harmonies, and delivery of such tracks within these genres.  This does not mean that he will not venture back into Pop, or other genres, but when there is a natural flow to the track(s) and the artist has that authoritative support of their work from creation to its end (the way that Bakian has done) then one has to say that the artist has found their niche.  

This is something different from the singer/songwriter, but I enjoyed it!  James Bakian is not afraid to take risks and has the chops, momentum, and the mind to go far.  I cannot wait to hear what he does next! 

Keep up with James Bakian by following him on his social media platforms:  Twitter, Facebook , and Instagram.


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