Photo: Madeleine Dalla
R&B is a variety of music celebrated for its infectious grooves and profound emotional depth; hence the unabridged version of the genre’s name, Rhythm and Blues. If these are the two signature characteristics of the storied style, Lucky Daye has not only earned a spot among his contemporaries, but also identified himself as a trailblazer in the world of R&B with his debut LP, Painted.
The leading track on Painted, “Roll Some Mo,” was previously released as a single on his 2018 I EP to immediate success, quickly scoring slots on popular R&B playlists across streaming platforms. The song presents a silky matrix of labyrinthine bass elevated by a lush, orchestral string section that conjures memories of old Marvin Gaye records. Daye’s earnest tenor guides the listener through the maze of sound, and without interruption, one track seamlessly shapeshifts into the next.
Despite the fluidity of Daye’s arrangements and the way the tracks on Painted effortlessly blend into one another, the singer expertly curates a diverse range of moods throughout the album. Tracks like “Extra” feature erratically shifting jazz chords and crunchy background vocals that would sound perfectly at home on a Thundercat record, while songs like “Misunderstood” present a delicate, deeply self-reflective vocal lead set over a somber piano that’s reminiscent of Frank Ocean. And then there are tracks like “Call,” a bossa nova-R&B mutation that is entirely undefinable and wholly unique to Daye.
With Daye’s expert blend of classic R&B tropes and innovative stylistic upheaval, you’d expect that he’s been writing music since he could walk – but this is a far cry from reality. In actuality, the artist was born into a religious cult in New Orleans and was prohibited from listening to secular music for many of his formative years, resorting to singing Bible verses and Dr. Seuss poems in order to teach himself melodies. Though Daye eventually escaped the cult with his mother and began building an independent life, his home was soon washed away by Hurricane Katrina, and the family was forced to relocate.
Despite all this, the singer has managed to cultivate his craft – yet, maybe it’s exactly these experiences that make Daye’s music so captivating. In sourcing music as a way to deal with personal hardship, a practice that is deeply rooted in the history of R&B, the singer is able to express in sound experiences and emotions that cannot adequately be put into words.
Sit back, relax, and get lost in Painted below: