Kadhja Bonet - The Visitor (album review) (2016)

Kadhja Bonet
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Singer and songwriter Kadhja Bonet’s The Visitor EP is an impressive debut. Its songs succeed phenomenally mostly because of Bonet’s vocals and the songs’ lyrics, which appear as contemporary, youthful, versions of the more artistic songs of the American 1960’s and 70’s from artists like Nina Simone or Motown artists, or of French chansons by artists like Barbara.

There is a style of soul today that aims to reproduce the aesthetic of past soul for contemporary audiences. Perhaps its most well known practitioner is Leon Bridges, who records onthe major label Atlantic Records; Bonet is, in many ways, the indie version of this style. What her songs offer that others who practice this style of soul do not is poetry.

Singer and songwriter Kadhja Bonet’s The Visitor EP is an impressive debut. Its songs succeed phenomenally mostly because of Bonet’s vocals and the songs’ lyrics, which appear as contemporary, youthful, versions of the more artistic songs of the American 1960’s and 70’s from artists like Nina Simone or Motown artists, or of French chansons by artists like Barbara.

There is a style of soul today that aims to reproduce the aesthetic of past soul for contemporary audiences. Perhaps its most well known practitioner is Leon Bridges, who records onthe major label Atlantic Records; Bonet is, in many ways, the indie version of this style. What her songs offer that others who practice this style of soul do not is poetry.

The Visitor EP is an album of 10 songs written and arranged by Bonet. Unlike in the soul music of the 1970’s that it aims to reproduce, there are no blues elements in Bonet’s music, but here poetry resonates as much as blues can. “Honeycomb” is sultry because of Bonet’s singing style and its poetic text. The instrumentation is minimal, letting the lyrics and Bonet’s vocals take the spotlight.
“Nobody Other” is mainly sung over simple guitar. “They say that when you find one / then you find a part of you” is the song’s best line, though it is full of others. An organ that is introduced midway through the songs becomes its defining musical element.
“Tears For Lamont,” the most impressive song on The Visitor EP, is far from being commercial radio fare. Its text requires serious listening, as if Bonet is a poet of the antiquities, singing a lengthy lament along to a lyre.
The strings heard throughout this album are a phenomenal addition. Despite their novelty, however, it is the lyrics that are most remembered after hearing Bonet’s songs, though the strings undeniably grab a listener’s attention while listening to the song.
Bonet’s songs remind most of Diana Ross’s, such as “All My Life.” The poetry in her lyrics is more complex than Diana Ross’s however and perhaps closer to the aesthetic of French chanson such as Nina Simone’s “Ne Me Quittes Pas” but especially of Barbara’s (Bonet might not intend this.) French chanson strive to first and foremost to be poetic. Poetry brings value to songs and the poetry of Bonet’s songs certainly impress.

Bonet is on a singular path that can mean a great deal for American music. Let’s hope that she continues to produce this much poetic music, in an age of songs mainly produced for partying.

By Emmanuel Adolf Alzuphar

 
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