It’s safe to say that The Internet surprised us all.
Their 2011 debut Purple Naked Ladies and 2013 follow-up Feel Good were soft advances into the outer reaches of neo-soul, as Syd, Matt Martians, and their then-bandmates—Patrick Paige, Christopher Smith and Tay Walker—revved their engines in an attempt to speed away from the hedonistic tendencies of the budding celebrity, no-fucks-given attitude of teenage collective Odd Future.
It wasn’t until 2015, however, that everything snapped into place for The Internet, following the release of their GRAMMY-nominated album Ego Death, a musical feat that somehow remains crisp in its nebulous soulfulness, and worlds away from Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt’s brand of blue raps.
After spending a majority of her career with OF as a DJ, engineer, the only woman, and the first out gay member, Syd had finally stepped into the forefront. Indeed, Ego Death was Syd’s initial acceptance of herself and her talents—and something we didn’t know we needed.
With the release of singles “Body” and “All About Me,” Syd surprised us once again, further differentiating herself from her Internet kin and gravitating towards a futuristic R&B, trap and pop sound.
Big name producers like MeLo-X, Hit-Boy and Rahki made the cut, even though their beats are almost imperceptible. That’s because Syd is the star, and within the context of her debut album Fin, out today (February 3), her aesthetic finally clicks and makes sense: Fin is Syd fully-formed.
Standout Songs (Besides “Body” and “All About Me”)
“Shake Em Off”
Amid a cloud of dulled synths, Fin opens on self-assured footing with “Shake Em Off,” as we see Syd lifting herself up through braggadocio as she bends her pop influences to her liking.
Sometimes you gotta fake it til you make it, and that’s exactly what she does here, calling herself a “young star in the making” and telling us that she’s “grown.” “Shake Em Off” pulls back on the darker R&B flourishes that mark “Body” and “All About Me,” reverting to the honeyed voice that we now know so well.
“Know” is, if anything, a hat tip to both Aaliyah and Timbaland. Syd’s voice is hazy and provocative, a sexual lure, the production dripping in a frenzy of break beats, not far from Timbaland’s innovative production style of the late 90s and early aughts.
Syd intuits Aaliyah in both form and content, as she maintains her flirtation without being overly explicit.
“Drown In It”
“Drown In It” is almost the perfect interlude, where again, Syd borders on the graphic without falling head first into it.
Certainly, a lot of Fin is about sex—hell, most of it is about sex—but this is where it gets good: Syd isn’t outwardly literal; she dances around the obvious, her minute long quip on cunnilingus enticing us, keeping us on our toes.
Syd’s ascent can be traced through Odd Future, the Internet and now to a solo career. Fin, with its syrupy textures, subdued intensity, and unadulterated candor and confidence, brings Syd into the foreground: There is no anxiety here, no worry or doubt about who she is.
There’s a sense of freedom in her vocals as she breezes between jazz, funk, pop, and rhythm and blues arrangements, breaking the heteronormative bounds of R&B in the process.
Syd has risen from the obscurity of Odd Future’s ranks, and in many ways, has become a socio-political beacon: A black, gay, self-determined woman. And that’s why she’s something we didn’t know we needed, especially at a time when so much about the future of our country is unknown.
Syd shows us that we should revel in ourselves. Fin is a show of strength.
By Tara Mahadevan. Follow her on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Columbia