Boy, oh boy. What a treat. Following her previous project, I looked forward to Ohio-born and LA-based vocalist, Alina Baraz’s debut album. Ever since her collaborative EP with Danish producer Galamatias, she’s been on my radar. Although her Color of You project had some delicate jams, it ultimately underwhelmed. The title track is one of my favorite bedroom ballads of late, however. This time around I hoped for an evolution of artistry from Alina. Her potential shone bright half a decade ago. While I still believe in her abilities going forward, It Was Divine does not advance Baraz past square one. Across these 16 tracks Alina’s misty falsetto and lovey-dovey lyrics envelope the listener, urging them to pay close attention. Yet upon doing so, what results is far less than noteworthy. Nearly an hour of material presents itself without ever peeling back the layers of Alina Baraz the human.
This release screams basic. Since the 70s, acoustic R&B has been done just about every which way. Therefore, innovation, or some kind of personal touch, is necessary to keep listeners engaged. Otherwise it all blends into the background, becoming another forgotten project. Her songs replicate themselves with slightly different lyrics over and over again until the album ends. It appears as though Ms. Baraz has no clear creative vision in sight. That said, It Was Divine will never be an album someone hears and thinks to themselves, “Wow. This is complete garbage.” No, nothing of the sort. Nevertheless, if I asked people to name two songs from it a day after they listened to it, I’m confident they would draw a blank. Despite me sounding like an asshole, the proof is in the pudding. Soft, wispy backdrops create an illusion of deepness.
When in reality these lyrics are as surface-level as they come. She’s in love, then she’s not. She’s so sure about this relationship, then she’s not. Almost every track here focuses on the redundant external rather than the infinite internal. Who is Alina Baraz, the artist? Beats me. According to this album, she is yet another dreamy, stripped-back songstress with enough clout to bag some trendy features. Before I continue, I have an announcement. I actually didn’t hate this Khalid feature! Ladies and gentlemen, this is a first. Khalid’s voice has always been good. But on “Off the Grid” he isn’t trying too hard to be a type of singer he simply is not. These two have solid chemistry, seeing as they have collaborated multiple times in the past. Unfortunately for him, though, “Off the Grid” isn’t worth writing home about. The same goes for the other features, sadly.
6LACK, Smino and even Nas appear here. All for naught, however. Again, nothing on It Was Divine made me cringe or roll my eyes. But the yawns ran rampant, lemme tell you. The subtlety of Alina’s voice makes each track sound like the last. Also, it takes 13 songs for her to exude any kind of passion in the vocal department. If you were alone in a room with Alina Baraz, her serenade would surely satisfy you. That’s a Kam guarantee. Conversely, this airy vocal approach cannot carry an entire record. In short-form presentation, she has less time to run out of ideas. So with an hour to kill, a lack of sonic and vocal diversity forces the fate of this album to fall upon the shoulders of her pen. And although hers is far from the worst you’ll hear in 2020, it is equally as far from the best.
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