I am a sucker for tenderness in music. There’s something so becoming and full about a quiet approach to romance on wax. Instead of the bombast or grand gestures, I find myself gravitating more towards the tightly wound and subtle pace of timid love as it appears in the hip-hop sphere.
R&B singer Dijon, Baltimore-raised and born Dijon Duenas, taps into this attractive timidness on his latest EP, How Do You Feel About Getting Married?. From the title to the depth of the six songs, Married unfurls in gentle whisps.
Dijon’s timid approach to the love song is actually quite full and wonderfully emotional; there’s a branch to the listener at every turn on Married. Each song creates space for us to fold in our love and personal images—most importantly, Dijon’s use of space is novel.
We begin with his use of space on the title of the EP, which is a heavy question delivered softly. There’s hedging and subtlety to the ask. Leading with a question, too, necessitates a pause. Dijon begins Married by creating space for the listener to consider and invoke their own life. It’s a clear emotional trick—and it works.
The use of question is so important to the creation of space and allowing the listener to process Dijon’s themes, he employs it immediately at the start of the project with the opening song, “do you light up?”
The question of the song functions similarly to the question of the album, and then we have the opening line, which is also a question: “Are lilacs still your favorite flower?” There is a single line break, and then another question: “Do you still get heart flutters and butterflies?”
Finally, we get the titular question six times to close out the song. Lyrically, then, Dijon spends the opener creating so much space we have to wonder, what is meant to flit into the caverns he’s dug out with his language?
Dijon’s point is that any flower can be the favorite flower; any heart can flutter. These deeply personal recollections of romance can extend—as all good Americana can—to the even more deeply personal recollections of an impersonal listener. Dijon uses questions to take his songs into the general consciousness, to take his songs from his recording set up to our memories.
Space in music gives our racing thoughts a home. As we listen and make associations, each gap of time on How Do You Feel About Getting Married? gives us room to associate and dissolve the lines between our lives and Dijon’s life. It’s sly, and it works because Dijon writes of a very timid love with lots of crevices for the listener. These spaces are partly purposefully carved out, of course, but also, they are merely a feature of shyness.
On the most thematically detached song, “rock n roll,” we still find Dijon experimenting with space. He breaks from the themes of Married, giving us the ultimate amount of room to breathe and revisit the themes anew on the following “dance song,” which returns to the timid question format.
“dance song” opens with three questions: “Can we dance with the lights down? / Can I put my head by your head? / Can I push you out, then pull you in?” The production, handled by Dijon, is dreamy and rough-hewn. Each question is delivered with a necessary pause, as on the title and “do you light up?”
Listening to “dance song” almost feels too intimate, how close Dijon brings us into this wedding song demo track. However, because of the space he employs, his timidness does not make us reluctant to engage Dijon. Rather, we fill each space with our memories and melt into the ease of the plucks, keys, and quick vocal swells.
“dance song” thrives in the realm of questions, much like “do you light up?” Too, it adds a “Come here…” section, which is all about taking breaths and basking in personal memories.
Dijon is a master of space and quiet, is a master of translating the tender into arena-filling awe. It’s a marvel how the offerings on How Do You Feel About Getting Married? are so emotively localized, and yet each listener will surely walk away feeling Dijon has spoken to them directly, too. This makes Dijon a romantic man of the people. Also, “dance song” reminds us of his superb songwriting ability, as it’s the “only song” Dijon’s ever been proud of.
“Romance is all over these little stories, and so is disappointment and so is desperation; and they are little stories. And maybe they all talk to each other?” —Dijon
Our reading of Dijon’s quiet tenderness can extend to the way he speaks about the records. Calling them “little stories” twice over, hedging himself once again as he does with his questions, gives us the impression Dijon created these songs with a weary heart.
From these two sentences, we glean a man who is not insecure, but a man who is not exactly in conversation with his full confidence. That said, there’s power in that vulnerability and openness—the same power that drives the EP.
How Do You Feel About Getting Married? balloons and thrives in the same way as these timid thoughts. The EP accomplishes so much in 15 minutes.
Dijon’s love and “little stories” feel so real because he creates a world based on the bashful. His coy and demure—and whatever else you’d like to call it—approach to Married gives us so much space to reflect and fall in love with Dijon’s vision of love and tenderness.
For all its whispering quality, the structure and world surrounding Married is the slow-burning into all-consuming love we encounter in our later years. The sturdy love. The forever thing.