The son of a preacher and known for his fluidity across genres, adopting influences in R&B, funk, rock and indie-electronic, Son Little released his third album aloha at the end of January. Little’s flexibility among genres has people floored and begging for more. His music tends to have a vintage feel with a new twist. It’s like listening to a song from the 80’s that was ahead of its time.
After winning his first Grammy back in 2017 following the release of his second album, New Magic, Son Little opted for some help on his third album. While his first two albums were self-produced, aloha is a change-of-pace collaboration with French producer Renaud Letang. Primarily working in pop and hip-hop, Letang’s influences successfully compliment Little’s style in these twelve tracks.
In contrast to previous albums, aloha has a much more stripped down feel with heavy roots in rhythm and blues than that of his previous albums. Son Little’s soulful style is beautifully showcased with songs like “suffer,” “that’s the way,” and “o clever one,” while he shares his funky side with tracks like “hey rose” and “belladonna,” then leaves us bobbing our heads in “3rd eye weeping” and “mahalia.” The versatility showcased in Little’s most recent album is not necessarily unusual coming from him, but surprising– each track is vastly different from the last but seamlessly blends one into the other.
In an interview with NPR, Little admits that creating this album was an exercise in letting go, after he had lost the entire album of detailed demos due to a hard-drive failure. “It was mortifying,” he laughs “it’s like the golden rule– It’s rule number one. So if you’re listening at home: back up your work.” Little essentially had to rebuild the entire album from scratch in just eight days.
You read that right: Eight. Days.
That being said, the rush to the deadline does not reflect in the overall production of the album, but I do feel that we see a much more raw side of Son Little. May it have been the ticking of the clock, or the heartbreak of losing a rough album’s worth of work, it’s evident that Little has decided to wear his heart on his sleeve for the better part of these 12 tracks.
Although most of the album has a melancholic feel, his song “mahalia” has you tapping your toes. Although simplistic in it’s lyrics, it’s charm shines through with Little’s signature raspy voice. This song is reminiscent of his first album with a rhythmic electric guitar and a percussive element in his lyrics.
Possibly my favorite song on the album is “about her. again.” This tune makes you want to lay on your bed and just stare at the ceiling. Drenched in classic rhythm and blues, this song tugs at the heart strings and showcases Little’s soulful vocals and range. There is significance in the silence when it comes to this song, it leaves you yearning for the next lyric.
Overall, aloha proves how well Son Little can create under pressure. Creating fresh new tunes with a classic sound, his third album fits in well with that of his previous releases. Little manages to stay authentic, continuing to give fans what they expect of him without being too predictable.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Favorite Track: “about her. again”
Least Favorite Track: “bbbaby”
Article by: Shannon Maloney