Published May 20, 2016Yuna has dubbed her new album Chapters, but it by no means follows a typical narrative arc — in fact, a plot twist that could've been saved for the climax instead occurs between the first two tracks.
The songstress opens her third internationally released LP with "Mannequin," on which she sings with the rawness of a fresh wound about her willingness to fulfil a particular suitor's every desire. "Moving my lips the way that you want / Remain the same whenever you walk away," she sings on that song's chorus, over a crackling snare and slowly pulsing synths. But no such submissive metaphors are used on the next track, "Lanes." Instead she rap-sings about an unappreciative beau who, as far as she's concerned, "can keep" his love and get out of her life. The production follows suit, with a beat that hits significantly harder, and synths that slowly smoulder and escalate the tension.
Yuna sounds equally self assured on midway number "Used to Love You," going toe to toe with fellow rising R&B star Jhené Aiko. As Aiko sings a searing chorus about having no regrets, she breaks into a speedy rap about a loser she's all too eager to leave behind. It's a spellbinding collaboration, but R&B diehards will be more impressed to hear Yuna hold her own with the genre's most successful living heavyweight, Usher, on "Crush," on which their voices mesh effortlessly, especially on the rousing "la la las" that they harmonize on during the chorus.
Fans of Sade, another R&B legend, will also be thrilled to hear "Best Love," whose to-and-fro string samples and exotic synth motifs make the purring Yuna sound like the smoothest of operators here. Yuna clearly has the potential to measure up to those R&B greats, which she demonstrates consistently across the wide range of themes and deliveries on this fantastic LP. (Verve)