Today, the new EP from OVO singer/producer duo Majid Jordan (Majid Al Maskati and producer Jordan Ullman), was supposed to premiere in full, but a keen follower to their scant Twitter account may have already copped the EP 5 days ago, as they surprise released the EP early. Details aside, it’s July 22nd, it’s here, and first things first, you can now stream A Place Like This for free, in full, on Spotify below. (Scroll below for my review.)
Now, I’ve had the weekend to sit with the 5 new tracks and wow, I haven’t been floored by a project like this in 2014 with the exception of Kid Cudi’s Satellite Flight. I hope that statement alone inspires a press of a play button, but nevertheless, I’m excited to elaborate.
The first note I have about A Place Like This is about how I consumed it — somewhat in reverse. That’s because the first preview of the EP was the title track and music video released a couple of weeks ago. I watched and heard a dark sound and story played out in ambiguous, full-circle fashion, with, little beknownst at the time, the lyrics to come full-circle for the entire project too. The hypnotic production and solemn mood established my idea of how the rest of the EP would play out. However, that would not be the case…
Rewind to Saturday, when I posted the EP’s intro track “Forever” and was pleasantly surprised to discover a moderately upbeat sound I likened to a choice for a hip, high-end fashion store. Similarly, this is a feel-good record for cruising in the car, whether with the windows down and the sun up, or the downtown night lights overhead. So, how would Majid Jordan go from these faster tempos and warmer vibes to the darker mood of the title track conclusion?
Eager to find out, “All I Do” started that transition by mixing in solo, minimalist moments within an otherwise synth-dominant mid-tempo. Lyrically, the first two tracks centered around a theme of infatuation as Majid’s voice reigned powerfully and stretched effortlessly for long notes. The hooks of “Can’t stop the way that you make me feeeelll, something about this just feels so reaaaalll..” and “All I ever do is think of youuu.. too much (you mine, you mine)”, respectively, connect chiefly due to its concise realness supplemented by those long notes. The production pounds at the right times allowing for Jordan to shine and reel in the listener to the rest of the journey.
The EP’s third record “Her” acts as the lyrical and sonic bridge into the latter half of the project. Majid croons, “I’m glad we made it this far, sometimes you just don’t know” about his love being reciprocated. The track’s melody still has elements of the energy of the first two tracks, yet it’s noticeably a tier below them for the project’s transition to also begin sonically. In fact, the transition happens within the record itself as Majid’s last bridge is a signal to take things to the bedroom. The excellent 1.5 minute instrumental outro is a your snooze-button reminder to paint the picture even more clearly.
Perhaps now you’re awake to the greater story at hand as we arrive at “U”: the project’s slowest R&B jam, its production at its minimalist peak, and the turning point of the story that reflects on the lost love of the previous three records. Another memorable, simple chorus begins, “I carrreeed for you (when no one did) I sweaaar to you, I still do” with more lines in the pre-chorus spoken in the past-tense and hitting home to any fellow over-thinkers out there, “I’m hoping, I’m not the only one that keeps recalling, all those memories, that used to happen so often”. I was convinced up to that point already, but now I’m really convinced that Majid Jordan’s songwriting is one of the best balances I’ve seen of describing a relationship situation with a mix of specificity and non-cliche, succinctness that above all is real. Otherwise, without this balance, it wouldn’t flow so naturally. That’s why I think any casual listener can appreciate A Place Like This, no matter if you can’t parallel with it.
This of course prefaces the conclusion of the story, “A Place Like This”, where Majid sings about the conclusion of the love. He indicates she’s raising a child and it’s difficult to go on in “A Place Like This”, so to speak. It seems like he has no other choice than to accept her decision to be “better off as two”, but ends the track with probably the slickest way to say, ‘I’ll be the best you ever had.’
What they offering you, what they promising you
Cause I swear it’s not better than what I would do..
This is how A Place Like This masterfully ends, bringing the story to a close that I only wish had a few more chapters to it. Yet, there’s an art to the EP ranging 5 records and the logical sentiment says that the length was perfect for the story. I’m just left wanting more, which is a feeling for this music fan that’s becoming increasingly harder to capture in this digital age of non-stop consumable music. I’d also like to commend Majid Jordan for delivering this continuous story with the emotional highs and lows complimented by the appropriate cutting-edge sounds and melodies. It’s hard enough to successfully tell a story across an entire project, but to deliver it for consumption with the conclusion first (again, the “A Place Like This” music video) created a Memento-esque enlightening feeling and extra meaning to “A Place Like This” — both the song and EP, in perfect full-circle fashion.