Love comes from the heart, music comes from the soul, and Ravyn Lenae’s voice comes from a rosy astral plane.
A Chicago songstress who brings smart jazz and funk into the 22nd century with an array of vocal tricks, Lenae first debuted in 2015 with her EP, Moon Shoes. Her eclectic style took further shape on 2017’s Midnight Moonlight and took her on tour with SZA and fellow Chicagoan, Noname. Her previous works relied on an air of mystique, contrasts of light and darkness, huge swaths of color, and a certain teenage affinity for the doldrums and coy self-discovery.
Now pairing up with The Internet’s Steve Lacy—who produced the entire project and is featured on two tracks—Lenae delivers the most romantic, focused, and self-assured installment in her EP series, Crush.
Crush exposes Ravyn Lenae as a time traveler and a vocal shape-shifter. The skirting inflections on the opening track and lead single “Sticky” are impressive and catching. Lenae turns her upper register into a sonic playground where Lacy’s guitar riffs unfurl and dizzy our ears in the best way possible. “Night Song” is, by contrast, velvety and classic with its full-bodied grooves—and it’s all so sexy. Even the closing cut, “4 Leaf Clover,” with its mealy guitar, has the same pops of sexual confidence that tie the project together.
The EP unfolds in shades of burgundy, but that’s not to say it’s singular. Lenae’s honing in on a tighter color palette has subsequently sharpened and freed her writing. While we wander through the liminal spaces of romance and womanhood, we have to appreciate Lenae’s ability to make the ephemeral confusion of young love so tangible. There’s a greater emphasis on specificity in her lyrics, which makes the moments of abstract imagery all the more potent.
Lacy’s vocal presence on the EP provides a nice narrative counterforce, further underscoring Lenae’s artistic maturity. More importantly, Lacy’s features are not moments where Lenae cedes control, but instead work to emphasize the femininity that drives Crush and this new chapter of her career.
Crush is an EP with the range and spry spirit of an LP. Ravyn Lenae has the rare talent of variety, with the even rarer talent of restraint. Watching her career and artistic growth compound across a series of EPs is exciting, plain and simple.
As Lenae becomes more in tune with her sexuality and femininity on this project, listeners find more threads with which to connect. Being able to come into your own alongside an artist is a beautiful thing. Ravyn Lenae knows that, and we appreciate her willingness to share each stride of her musical journey.
Lenae’s range is arresting. Between the syncopated delivery and bright notes, "Sticky" takes the Tunnel of Love and turns it into a roller coaster for the ear. Lenae tackles all the uncertain pockets in a teetering relationship in much the same fashion.
“Computer Luv” ft. Steve Lacy
"Computer Luv" adds the vocal element to the duo’s creative chemistry. Playing off each other’s vibrant deliveries, the duo explores the frustration of finding love in the digital age. It’s music of the times, with a classic tinge, woven into a winding melody.