Feels; they have a way about them. Popular rhetoric surrounding “feels” often urges us to resist them. Though concurrently beautiful and treacherous, our feels are the base of human connection and when they go, you can most certainly expect their shameless return… but is that really a bad thing?
Perhaps when it comes to “feels,” we need go no further than tapping into Iranian-Swedish R&B legend-in-the-making, Snoh Aalegra’s latest album - Ugh, those feels again (Aug 16). A continuation of her freshman project, FEELS circa 2017, Aalegra expands on the life altering love that FEELS was based on, but from a different, more mature-perspective.
Executive produced by iconic producer, No I.D. (Jay-Z, Kanye West, J. Cole), - Ugh, those feels again is a true testament to the R&B greats of the ‘90s and ‘00s while offering a forward-looking perspective on the genre. Sonically, the production feels unified and purposeful. Though each track offers various musical angles, the overall vibe is like a sharpened dream, woozy but crisp. The bass is grounding but not overbearing, with keen attention spent on bringing out Aalegra’s gorgeous vocals and sonorities resting at the top end of the mix. Sprinkles of electronic sounds combined with the earthy vibes of jazz, give the project that perfect well-rounded sound.
Diving right in from the beginning with “Here Now (Intro),” Aalegra wastes no time is capturing your attention. Featuring sped up vocals reminiscent of Kanye West and Frank Ocean with lyrics oozing of that wisdom she has gathered in the past two years, she muses “Even if we catch the sunrise / It’s only a moment passing us by / We still have more, Southside” and as quickly as the moment arose as Aalegra promises, it passes. Into slow burning, anti-love song “I Want You Around” hosting a nod to one of Aalegra’s heroes, Stevie Wonder, it chronicles the common experience of being down for the hang but not feeling quite ready to get wrapped up in “love.” Jazz elements especially present here gives the track a sultry, lustful vibe with class. Overlapping vocals in the bridge, fall into a piano interlude between tracks, leaving the listener floating blissfully into subsequent song “Situationship.”
We bring up the tempo a bit here, a tropical, freeing vibe manifests. A manipulated, repeated piano glissando matched with a quintessential R&B groove acts as the foundation of the track, giving Aalegra the space she needs to riff through the vocals while reminiscing on the “in-between” in romance, a classic stage in single-hood. Aalegra shared with Billboard that both “I Want You Around” and “Situationship” were inspired by the fun elements of being single; “I’m having new experiences and I’m meeting new people. When you have those positive butterflies feelings – those are the kinds of emotions that inspired these songs.”
“Whoa” and “Find Someone Like You” bring both new feels and instrumentation into the mix. Percussive elements on “Whoa” are reminiscent of Afro-funk while “Find Someone Like You” feels cinematic with heavy attention spent on strings. “Toronto” showcases Aalegra’s impressive vocal range, as she builds and builds in the track. An explosive round of “Oohs,” leaves the listener reeling and maybe wanting to “Ooh” as well.
As we move into the second half of the album, Aalegra focuses less on the freedom of her new found single life and into understanding the emotional implications of her past, toxic relationship. “Charleville 9200, Pt. II” and “You” are specifically about this life changing relationship. “Chareville 9200” which made its appearance on her 2016 EP, Don’t Explain, is about her first encounter with said partner while “Pt. II” is Aalegra’s moment to mourn her love lost. A cathartic, epic goodbye she relents, “Why you take me up this high? / Just to put a hole in my parachute / So I would fall for you / Why you let us get this low?When you know I’d give up my life for you / Ride and I’ll die for you.”
But don’t let those deep emotions distract you for long, on “Nothing to Me,” we see the sexy, don’t-take-s*** version of Snoh… and we like it. An epic throwback to classic ‘90s R&B artists, we’re sure TLC and Brandy smiled wide when they heard this one. A side we don’t see often, Aalegra is free and justified in her independence. A series of question we’ve all asked asked our favorite f-boys, ”Why you always acting wishy-washy? / Why you always say you ready for me? When you know you ain’t ready for me?“ ends with a conclusive statement we all want to shout from the rooftops, “We aren’t friends if we fuckin’ homie.”
The project finishes off with a healthy dose of soul, like a warm bath and joint after a god-awful day, Aalegra is showing everyone that with heartbreak comes wisdom and more importantly strength. “I Didn’t Mean to Fall in Love” is your come-to-church moment baby and the congregation is waiting. You might find your arms raised in the air, tears streaming down your face by the end. But wipe them away quick, because “Peace” is all about bidding farewell to pain in style. A fresh, funky track complete with a surplus of record scratches, an emotive electric guitar line, and topped off with a dynamic violin part, Aalegra closes with the mantra “Peace in my mind gon’ save my life … Life ain’t really, ain’t really, ain’t really what it used to be.”