In a rare break from form, I am going to start this review by giving my personal opinion that Lion Babe, and her self-titled EP, is fantastic; if you haven’t heard it, stop reading this and start listening to it right now!
Right, assuming that you have now listened to the whole EP, probably more than once, you will understand when I say that Lion Babe has a simply stunning voice, a delightful combination of mellow and harsh tones and a powerful, yet nuanced, style. You will also understand when I say that her occasionally sultry tones contribute to a pleasantly varied EP.
One might be lured into thinking, due to the unquestionable R&B influence, pervading the EP but particularly on songs like “Jungle Lady”, that this 6-song offering would admirably lend itself to a calm evening in with some drinks and chilled conversation. Even as you settle in for the evening however, along come tracks, like “Don’t Break My Heart” and “Jump Hi” (featuring another R&B artist, Childish Gambino, just to throw you off the scent!), to wake you up, excite you and inspire thoughts of a night on the town. On the right day, and in the right company, I see no reason why Lion Babe’s EP could not excellently accompany both options! But that just demonstrates the wonderfully fine line that she has successfully walked.
Simultaneously mellow and boisterous, soft and seductive, the EP combines a traditional hip-hop sound with modern dance-floor grooves, over which the soaring voice of Lion Babe plays a vital role in skilfully stringing these elements together. Not only are these elements brought together within songs, but on a song-by-song basis; the EP is composed in such a way that livelier dance-floor tracks are interwoven with mellower R&B flavours.
From the word go Lion Babe shows the tremendous versatility of her voice with the floaty, ethereal quality of “Intro”; such a track might often be considered a throw-away, but as it stands, the gentleness and atmospheric quality of “Intro” lulls the listener into a sense of quiet expectation, only to blow them away with the slick beats and smooth vocals of “Jump Hi” and subsequent tracks. A fairly sparse musicality of drums, base and synths in more upbeat tracks like “Treat Me Like Fire” truly compliment Lion Babe’s soaring voice, only further highlighted by ghostly echoed harmonies in “Jungle Lady”.
There are few truly unique sounds in modern popular music, but Lion Babe certainly comes close! Whilst the whole ensemble is nothing out of the ordinary, her opulent blend of celestial, melancholy and forceful vocals lifts this EP above the run-of-the-mill R&B album. Lion Babe will undeniably be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.