Written By: Fletcher Bonin
Bilal has been a regular fixture in the R&B and soul community for years. He has been associated with the likes of Dr. Dre, Jay – Z, Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar and many, many more. His classical training as a jazz vocalist has made him a chameleon of sorts in the music industry. He is able to sing in a multitude of styles and even several languages, making him the perfect complement to any song. And yet it is his solo work that deserves the most recognition. His 2015 release In Another Life is a moving and powerful composition of neo-soul with jazz and Motown undertones. And yet despite these influences, there is something entirely new and indescribable about Bilal’s unique sound.
All twelve tracks of In Another Life offer a new and more heartfelt side to Bilal’s persona. His vocal range and control deserve comparison to the greats and the musical arrangements that accompany his voice are elegant and majestic. This is music for special occasions, the soundtrack to black tie events and dimly lit speakeasies. It’s the kind of music you’d expect to accompany the opening credits of a James Bond movie. Despite the evident formality of Bilal’s sound, there is nothing at all stuffy or self-important about his sound. Rather, the music is as empowering for the listener as it seems to be for Bilal. His voice surges from the depths of romantic pain to the stratosphere of musical bliss. His lyrics are thought provoking and poetic.
My favorite track is the mellow and rhythmic ‘Spiraling’. Three seconds in and I’m already adding it to my playlist. Against a slow and jazzy backbeat, Bilal enters, singing, “feels like that warm summer night, like when everything was going right, it’s a beautiful love song haunting your mind, forever be this way.” He continues into the soft spoken refrain, “spiraling, spiraling, spiraling, out of control, no one, no one, no one can ever know.” You can’t help but bob your head to the loose fluidity of this bluesy track.
Other tracks guaranteed to work some Valentine’s Day magic are ‘Holding It Back’ featuring Kimbra, ‘Pleasure Toy’ featuring Big K.R.I.T and of course the enchanting track ‘Satellites’. Really, you can’t go wrong when it comes to choosing a track to listen to off of In Another Life. Each song is a piece of Bilal himself, meticulously arranged and melodically tweaked to perfection. This is more than just a generic R&B romance album. It is imbued with sensational vocal expressions and complex lyrical themes. In Another Life plums the depths of Bilal’s vast talent, and I have a feeling he has ever more to give.