Every once in awhile you’ll hear a song or a voice and in that moment you know that the person behind it is destined for stardom. The last instance of this that comes to mind is 2015 when an 18 year-old Alessia Cara came out nowhere with her hit video and single for ‘Here’. Two years later and she’s one of pop music’s mainstays on the charts and continues to push and promote singles from her debut album. Cara had one of those instantly recognizable voices and a lead single that was bound to click with its intended audience. The first time I heard the voice of the artist this review is actually centered around, was last summer when my girlfriend showed me a one off feature she did with Atlanta native FKi 1st. Normally I wouldn’t remember a random song from two artists I wasn’t familiar with, but as my girlfriend sat there and struggled to pronounce “Njomza”, her name was one I’d recognize from that moment on. Name aside, it didn’t hurt that her vocals in the song that I was made ot hear were impressive. I didn’t pay her much interest past that day until a few months later when her name popped up again, this time on a much bigger platform. She was featured on Mac Miller’s 2016 love album The Divine Feminine and that was enough to pique my interest; who was Njomza? Turns out she had been doing covers and original songs on YouTube for a few years but had just started making bigger waves recently. With co-signs from Miller and Earl Sweatshirt, I began to see what the hype was about as I scoured her Soundcloud page. Last Friday (April 7) marked the day of her first official project release. She went the EP route similar to the previously mentioned Cara, but whether it results in the same outcome is speculation for now.
‘Sad For You’ is a seven track formal introduction to an artist that has sprinkled her talent in various places the past two years. She begins this introduction with the short and appropriately titled ‘intro’. She hums over a rolling beat until her voice takes the forefront. It is immediately apparent that her voice is stronger than some of her features have allowed her the room to show. ‘intro’ is straightforward but does exactly what the opening number on a new artist’s EP should: make you want to continue listening. I mentioned earlier that there are certain moments that listeners experience when hearing a song or voice for the first time that leads to them to conclusions about the artist. Njomza has a few distinct moments on ‘Sad For You’. Moment one comes courtesy of the EP’s title track and was when I had the realization that this was an artist whose music I would be following for years to come. There’s the subtle steel drums that open the track, the confident vocals that follow, and the almost angelic falsetto that greets you during the hook as the other elements take a backseat. All of these combine to create an almost 5 minute long epic that breezes by in what feels like half the time and begs to be replayed. Moment two arrives in the form of ‘Poison’ and was the moment I heard a voice that needed little to no accompaniment to carry a song and keep the listener’s attention. Over muted, almost panning keys, Njomza’s airy vocals steal the show. It shows signs that she could one day create ballads with similar impact to songs like Rihanna’s ‘Stay’ one day. Finally, moment three arrives with the pop leaning ‘Hear Me’. Her voice here is eerily reminiscent of Gwen Stefani from the days when her solo work used to rule the charts. It’s not that this song necessarily boasts the potential to be a Hot 100 hit itself, but more so proves that she is capable of crafting songs that could have her frequenting the charts in the future. Mark moment three as the one where it was clear that Njomza would be a pop-star in the not so distant future.
From there, she continues to flex just how diverse she can be musically. Whether it’s the jazzy horns on ‘Baggage’, the alt-R&B of ‘Perfect Fit’ or the pulsating poppiness of closer ‘Someone Like Me’, she proves to be a Jane-of-all-trades. A lot of times there’s a negative connotation surrounding that moniker as many say that it means they are masters of none. While it’s hard to say that anyone at the point in their career that Njomza is has “mastered” anything, she has shown that she is good enough in quite a few areas to excel in whatever realm she pleases. Without the huge Def-Jam backing that artists like Alessia Cara had during their come up, it may be a slower, more organic ride for Njomza, but under Mac Miller’s REMember music imprint, she will most likely have the creative reign over her music that most artists could only dream of. ‘Sad For You’ is a brisk sub-30 minute project that serves as a fantastic introduction to a young artist. While Njomza may be sad for us, music is excited for her.
Repeatable: ‘Sad For You’, ‘Poison’, ‘Hear Me’
By Scott Evans