5 Moments of R&B-Tinged Nostalgia on VanJess’ Debut, ‘Silk Canvas’


A relationship so often associated with synchronicity and competition, the bond of sisterhood is as highly complicated as it is coveted. Though we cannot speak toward the element of rivalry, Nigerian-American R&B sister duo VanJess utilize their deep familial bond to create soulfully nostalgic music with relevant pop elements. Born only a year a part, as a new fan you may find it difficult to tell the two apart both visually and sonically. The sisters began their career together nearly a decade ago covering songs on YouTube, eventually becoming viral sensations with their 2009 Lady Gaga cover of "Bad Romance,“  amassing 5.4 million views and counting. After being taken under the wing of their impressive management duo, consisting of creative community strategist Joshua Bloom and RCA A&R heavyweight, Tunji Balogun (Khalid, SZA, Bryson Tiller, GoldLink), the pair began releasing their original music to the attentive ears of the world.

Fast forward to July 27, 2018 and the release of their highly anticipated debut album Silk Canvas, a vibrant testament to the '90s R&B music the sisters grew up on. In an interview with VIBE Ivana shared, "The '90s really set the tone for our inspiration, our vibe. And the thing is, to be honest, it was never like a thing of, oh my gosh we're just engulfed in the '90s." Accident or not, the album is dripping with '90s R&B feels, and we cannot be more obsessed. To highlight our adoration, we decided to deconstruct 5 moments R&B tinged nostalgia on this promising pair's debut.     

1. "Control Me"

The sisters begin the album with two subsequent mellow bops, including the third single off the project, "Control Me." By this sultry, stand out track, VanJess has already gently guided their listeners into their enchanting world, through IAMNOBODI's layered production featuring relaxed lo fi beats, throbbing drums, and textured synths. With vibes reminiscent of R&B greats such as D'Angelo and Erykah Badu, the melody lines are complex yet palatable, chilled while sustaining a controlled energy, and emotive with a sense of purpose. The single's visual companion features the hypnotic gyrating of Nicholas "Slick" Stewart, who recently appeared on the cover of Beyoncé and Jay-Z's highly anticipated collaborative album APESHIT. The video enhances the alluring mystique of the track while the sisters seem to become modern day sirens as their yearning voices work in tandem to seduce Stewart's body into submission.


2. "Filters"

Now don't get too comfortable and be ready to shake off your chill a bit, because by track four VanJess kicks up the gear and intends to send you flying with groovy and culturally relevant track, "Filters." On many occasions the sisters have hailed female '90s R&B trio, TLC, as one of their most significant influences. As one of the best-selling American female groups of all time, TLC earned their well-deserved title through their ridiculously catchy hooks and honest, emotive lyrics that often confront personal yet culturally significant experiences; such as rejecting the acceptance of unfair expectations placed on a woman's appearance in "Unpretty”  and refusing to settle for male mediocrity in “No Scrubs.”  VanJess follows suit in "Filters" accompanied by bouncy, pop-infused production and an earworm of a chorus, the pair focus on the constant fabrication of reality normalized by social media.     

3. "Addicted"

By the sixth song of the album, we move further from bounce to punch in the desire laden track, "Addicted." Also produced by IAMNOBODI we see the same layered textures as before, but with a more unstable variance in percussion and flow. The track hosts crisp, computerized beats and an overarching staccato arrangement; we see a strong lean toward hip hop and a distinct nod to another one of their influences, the late R&B sensation Aaliyah. The song presents the same futuristic, stuttering rhythms that Aaliyah revolutionized, which are decorated by the VanJess's tight harmonies and smoky vocals. The single's video features an enticingly dark aesthetic as the sisters perform with their signature swag and appeal, mirroring the undeniably sexy feels of the track.

4. "Through Enough (feat. GoldLink)“  

After the heat of "Addicted," VanJess gives us a moment to recover with literal "cool-down" track, "Cool Off the Rain (Interlude)," only to catapult you to another peak in the album with banger "Through Enough" featuring the gifted MC, GoldLink. In a massive collide of R&B, hip hop, funk, and pop, VanJess creates a modern vibe with an arsenal of nostalgic musical weapons. Similar to R&B, hip hop maverick, Lauryn Hill who continues to break barriers in both her genre and for women in her field, VanJess showcases their flawless ability to keep their sound fresh and relevant, while paying homage to an array of well-traversed genres and styles.   

5. "Easy (feat. Berhana & Leikeli47)"  

In the second to last track on their debut, VanJess links up with Berhana and Leikeli47 to serve up a slinky, neo-soul ditty, "Easy." A lightheartedly sexy jam, the sisters' soft and sensual vocals evoke memories of Jill Scott or Lalah Hathaway, as they gush over the unorthodox ease found from a symbiotic romance. In combination with the final track, "Rewind Time (feat. Little Simz)," the sisters close their debut with a sense of self-awareness and confidence. Leaving all assured that the future of R&B is in safe and highly competent hands.

Listen to the full album here: