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Whispery purrs of alt-R&B diva Syd

Syd is the latest entry to an increasingly crowded pool of alt-R&B divas, including Kelela, FKA twigs and Solange.
Syd is the latest entry to an increasingly crowded pool of alt-R&B divas, including Kelela, FKA twigs and Solange.PHOTO: COLUMBIA

Solo debut by Syd, who is part of LA hip-hop collective Odd Future, showcases her unique brand of ambivalent sensuality

You have already witnessed a couple of success stories coming out from Odd Future - the idiosyncratic Los Angeles hip-hop collective that have gifted the world with the loose-mouth rapper Tyler, The Creator and the alternative R&B star Frank Ocean.

Now comes a third - this time, Syd, also known as Sydney Bennett, its former audio engineer and deejay, who upped and went to start another band, the R&B project The Internet.

The 24-year-old has now released her solo debut Fin. It posits her as the latest entry to an increasingly crowded pool of alt-R&B divas including Kelela, SZA, Jhene Aiko, Banks, Nao, FKA twigs and Solange - but with a queer twist.

She's less likely to slink up into the limelight than retreat into backstage. That's not to say she does not ooze confidence.


  • FIN



    4/5 stars

Far from it. On the opening track Shake Em Off, a missive about "shaking off haters and stress", she slurs her way through staccato riffs and dredged-through percussion: "Back and forth now I'm pacing/ Young star in the making... They pump me up to deflate me/I'm so close I can take it."

The braggadocio is counterpointed by her preferred choice of delivery: whispery purring with a tinge of devil-may-care. She does not see the need to declaim or raise her voice.

It's a special, piscine, slippery quality that makes it hard to pin her down.

That assuredness comes with the realisation that she is still a contradictory mess.

"You can thank my insecurities/ They're the reason I was down so long," she confesses over some Tex-Mex riffs in the shape-shifting, psychedelic closer Insecurities.

Her brand of ambivalent sensuality is a foil to much of pop/ hip-hop's oversexed, "pumped-up" masculinity.

Her come-hither bedroom ballad, Smile More, pivots on this flipped- around situation - instead of turning these lights low, she changes her mind and says: "Second thought, leave 'em on."

It's more mind game than physical satiation. "We get better every time/Learning how to read your mind," she declares over languorous bass.

This is followed by Got Her Own, a tug of war between seduced and seducer. "You try to undress her, but she says no/You try to sex her, but she says no," goes a passive- aggressive exchange over overdubbed echoes and lightly chugging beats.

On Body, which she hopes will turn out to be the "baby-making anthem of 2017", she appropriates admittedly cliched lines and delivers them straight with a sadomasochistic subtext: "Don't let go, I can hear your body when I/Pull your hair, what's my name."

Things come to a head with Dollar Bills, co-written and co-sung by her Internet bandmate Steve Lacy, where she challenges someone to "shake it for these dollar bills".

Is this just hedonism or an indictment on the money-making show business? The answer may be both.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2017, with the headline 'Whispery purrs of alt-R&B diva'. Print Edition | Subscribe