No upcoming R&B artist has caught my attention as much for their infectious hooks, smooth vocals and amazingly great songwriting since Frank Ocean up until recently when I discovered Elijah Blake, who coincedentally is a singer/songwriter that is just now starting to show his talent by releasing his own material with the Bijoux 22 EP that was released on December 12th of last year.
Also signed to Def Jam himself through Grammy Award-winning producer No I.D.’s Artium Records label, Blake captures your ears right in the beginning with the EP’s opening, rather unusual but excellent Don Cannon production Looking For Perfect. A short record that shows the appreciation of flaws from a significant other, the songs theme, lyrics and vocals make Blake sound almost like a carbon copy of Ocean himself. With such a delightfully amazing record that you could play over and over again, who is to complain though?
The EP than moves into the 1500 Or Nothin and The Futuristiks-co-produced Talk To Me. An ambient, bass-heavy production that along with the very infectious hook lets Blake show his great vocal ability, as well as let the ladies pour out all their concerns to him. Like with a lot of other R&B records the EP’s next song continues to be about the opposite sex, as in the intro seconds it finds Blake’s woman complaining to him about starring at another female before Blake goes into the hypnotic smooth No I.D. production proclaiming how he, “doesn’t trust these birdz, I don’t love these birdz.” Making for such an amazing record that really shows off Blake’s amazingly smooth vocals.
Blake’s next offering on the EP is the first solo record we were introduced to from him with the soulfully smooth X.O.X featuring frequent No I.D. collaborator Common. As you can guess from the song’s tittle, the Yonny & Sleep-produced, low-key, piano-driven boardwalk is a very emotionally charged cut about how Blake can’t get over an ex while in a new relationship and has him go into such an impressive emotionally-charged falsetto that really shows off his amazing voice. With such a catchy hook, perfect sample use of the Backstabbers by The O’Jays, as well as such a perfect guest verse from Common about his own old flame toward the records back end, X.O.X is such the perfect introductory to Blake that you can play several times and never get tired of it.
As you move into the second half of the EP is where the real standout records start to hit. First with the S1-produced Beloved. A brooding porg&b composition that really lets Blake put all his energy into such a dramatically vocal performance about a lover he missed an opportunity to profess his love to before they prematurely passed. With how musically perfect and convincing the record is it makes you almost want to shed a tear or tears for Blake or anybody else in an actual situation like that. Like Beloved, the next record, the No I.D.-produced Runnin’ Blind is a very short one as well, clocking in at just barely over two minutes. The very smooth and mellow record really shows Blake’s versatility with his soft smooth vocals about taking your time with the opposite sex to the point it, “has you runnin’ blind.”
The EP than goes into one of the other highlights of the whole project with the cinematic sex suite, Vicky’s Secret, which finds Blake showing his incredibly smooth vocals once again over the gorgeous but hushed erotic synths and reserved drum programming of the Trakmatic production before quietly blossoming into a subdued guitar solo towards the end. Bijoux 22 than closes out with arguably the best song on the EP and possibly one of the best songs I have ever heard period with Blake’s very beautiful cover of Lifehouse’s Everything. The perfect closing record to such an amazing EP, the very beautiful guitar-driven rendition really shows off Blake’s very smooth and amazingly beautiful voice, as he professes his love so emphatically to his lover. With the falsetto notes he hits towards the end of the record to show his amazing vocals really adding the perfect touch to close out the EP.
Bijoux 22 is such a finally crafted EP that you can easily play from beginning to end without having to skip any tracks. Probably why I have played it so much since discovering it in the waining last days of December. I coincidentally haven’t played a debut project from an upcoming R&B artist this much since Blake’s Def Jam label mates Frank Ocean and Jhené Aiko respectfully dropped Nostalgia, Ultra and Sailing Soul(s) in early 2011. The only real downside to the EP is some of the songs are to short and why I give it a 4.5 out of 5 rating to just miss that perfect rating. It’s without a doubt one of not only the best R&B releases from last year, but of all of music and of the last few years that I will have in rotation for awhile. The EP definitely shows how much promise Blake has and is the perfect introductory project that shows why 2013 will be a very big breakout year for not only Blake, but his Artium label mates Jhené Aiko and James Fountleroy.