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Shelley FKA DRAM

by Shelley FKA DRAM

Released April 30, 2021 via EMPIRE

Reviewed May 11, 2021

Top tracks (based on community voting)
The Lay Down (60%), All Pride Aside (35%), ‘93 Acura Vigor (35%)

Shelley FKA DRAM is the fantastic self-titled debut under DRAM’s birth name, Shelley. Nine gorgeous, back-to-back love ballads with a banger to finish it all off. The man covered Daft Punk’s “Something About Us,” and he absolutely crushed it; an unheard of feat. “Exposure” is one of the best love songs ever recorded, while “All Pride Aside,” “The Lay Down,” and “Cooking With Grease” are all phenomenal as well. The only real lulls in the tracklist are “‘93 Acura Vigor” and “Married Woman,” but even those work well with the rest of the album. This is everything you could ask from Shelley/DRAM; it feels like he has finally come into form after years of showing immense potential. I cannot wait to see what’s next in store for Shelley. – Hadley (8.5/10)

It was 2018 when Shelley — then known as DRAM — appeared on Diplo’s chill, rugged “Look Back.” It was a brief departure from both artists’ signature styles, but it was Shelley’s vocals that captivated us. While his soulful belter of a performance re-emerged here and there during this past inter-album period, it takes centre stage on Shelley FKA DRAM. Out are the likes of “Broccoli” and in is a collection of sensual and smokey RnB cuts. Shelley gets to flesh out his vocal talents, whether it's via a funky falsetto on a rendition of Daft Punk’s “Something About Us” or careful crooning on “Beautiful.” The instrumentation feels layered and lush compared to his last record, with plinky electric guitar plucks that tiptoe across rivers of passionate bass. Spoken interludes at the tail-end or very beginning of tracks add a nice structure to the record overall, though it does hide that some tracks are lyrically underwritten, like the criminally short “Married Woman.” While sparse, all the features nail their performances, especially Andrew Watt’s sharp solo on “The Lay Down.” A tight tracklist and set of lyrical and instrumental themes makes Shelley FKA DRAM succinct without feeling awfully rushed. Both the new name and sound seem to work. – Cam (8/10)

Taking on a new stage name is not the only change that Shelley FKA DRAM made in preparation for his first release under the updated moniker, as Shelley FKA DRAM is stylistically different from the music he released while going by DRAM. Although the tropes of his music have stayed the course—consistently navigating the typical motifs of R&B music with relative humor and a distance from any baggage—the quirky aura of his previous works has shifted into a more sophisticated and polished approach. The days of “Cute” have evolved into the days of “Beautiful,” and the style of this newest album works really well. Shelley’s voice has always been unique—equally powerful as it is gentle, and equally emotional as it is lighthearted, but the ballad manner found on songs like “Married Woman” and “Exposure” pull another technical level out of his already impressive vocal practice. The growth found between his last effort and this one is what make his cover of Daft Punk’s “Something About Us” so successful. Covering a danceable but poignant track is exactly the kind of task Shelley’s voice is aimed at, and he adds a new flair of soul and maturity to those moments that make this entire album a success. – Pax (7.8/10)

Hadley: 8.5/10 | DeVán: 8.2/10 | Cam: 8/10

Dominick: 7.8/10 | Pax: 7.8/10 | Alan: 7.7/10 | Peter: 5.5/10


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