Daniel Caesar Breaks New Ground on 'NEVER ENOUGH'

BY Ben OkazawaPublished Apr 6, 2023

With Daniel Caesar's new album NEVER ENOUGH comes a brand new version of the Toronto R&B sensation. Leaving behind the gospel-tinged arrangements of Freudian and the pensive slow burns of CASE STUDY 01, NEVER ENOUGH sees Caesar charge headlong into a new era of his music. 

"Ocho Rios" sets the stage for a genre-bending ride with an intimate, instrumentally-sparse prologue before an electric guitar screams in to introduce the chorus, and bass and vocal harmonies fill out the background. As the song draws to a close, drums crash in and Caesar wades into rock 'n' roll waters with a distorted guitar solo. 

NEVER ENOUGH's singles gave every indication that no two songs on the album would sound the same, and it largely sticks to that promise. "Do You Like Me?" finds Caesar sliding down from the falsetto that he so often employs, his lower register carrying a bouncy melody over acoustic strums. The synth-led intro to "Let Me Go" bleeds into ethereal background vocals and a tick-tocking rhythm, while "Valentina" sees Caesar muse on his toxic love for a taken woman atop sharp drums and vaporous keyboard washes. 

An evolving sound doesn't equate to a complete reinvention of artistry, though; NEVER ENOUGH illustrates the same themes of love, death and faith that Caesar pondered on his previous albums while simultaneously exploring concepts of time and space on the striving ballad "Always" and "Toronto 2014," featuring prolific local talent Mustafa. On the latter, gently plucked acoustic guitar strings give way to melancholic piano as the soft-spoken Regent Park native laments the trappings of fame in his unmistakably delicate tone, seeping with pain. "Take me far away from the sun / If only I could find my way through space-time / Back to when I was happy being me." Mustafa's voice blends seamlessly into the chorus before Caesar sings of his own yearning for the past. There's a wonderful irony in his plea to go back to 2014 — the year he burst onto Toronto's music scene with his debut project Praise Break — at the same time as he ventures into a starkly different sound. 

"Always" sees a vulnerable Caesar promise his undying love over a tenderly arranged instrumental that gradually swells to a dazzling symphony of piano, drums, guitar and background vocals. The song contains perhaps the best moment on the album as, over abrupt and punchy drums and bass, Caesar snaps "I still remember the fussing, the fighting, the fucking, the lying" before softening; "It's all fine / You'll always be mine." 

Tastefully dispersed vocal distortion on "Shot My Baby" and the Omar Apollo-supported "Buyer's Remorse" signals yet another step into new territory for Caesar, as does his cast of guests that don't resemble past contributors in the slightest. Ty Dolla $ign and serpentwithfeet represent a contemporary R&B presence lacking from previous Caesar albums with sultry verses that fit perfectly on "Homiesexual" and "Disillusioned" respectively. Meanwhile, Chronixx brings a reggae rhythm to "Unstoppable" that Caesar hasn't explored since 2019's "Cyanide" remix with Koffee. 

After showing off his versatility across the first half of the album, Caesar takes a step back from the experimental foray to tip his cap to the past. "Superpowers" takes after CASE STUDY 01's "TOO DEEP TO TURN BACK" with its almost sombre tone amidst an uplifting narrative and largely a cappella approach, while "Cool" bridges the gap between NEVER ENOUGH and Freudian with shades of "Blessed" — weeping piano drives both songs' instrumentals almost entirely as Caesar's vocal chops and songwriting take the spotlight. But where the latter employed an organ and backing harmonies from Toronto's Cadaro Tribe choir to fill out the end of the song, "Cool" uses its hypnotizing melody and a chorus of strings. 

Caesar furthers his inimitable discography with NEVER ENOUGH. With each of his projects containing a unique sound and distinct energy, it's hard to weigh them against one another — but when the dust settles, this may well be considered the quintessential Daniel Caesar record. A kaleidoscopic collection of songs with a deep roster of features, NEVER ENOUGH is a cohesive display of genre experimentation that cements Caesar's place as one of the smartest and most talented artists in today's constantly mutating R&B pantheon. 
(Republic), (Universal)

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