Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Rina Chanel’s “Sweetest of Melody”

I didn’t know music like Rina Chanel’s “Sweetest of Melody” is even possible these days. It sounds so quaint or out of time when compared to the bell and whistle laden bluster of modern pop. It isn’t hip-hop, pop country, or the few remaining bastions of big-time record sales Chanel’s music pushes. The Brooklyn native and Virginia Beach, Virginia-based singer/songwriter debuted in 2020 and has stayed busy despite a global pandemic slowing her forward momentum. A few months now in 2022 and Chanel has a string of popular singles to her credit, a growing reputation as one of the best up and coming singers in pop music today, and a new single hitting the streets. 

“Sweetest of Melody” comes from Chanel’s EP release Rina. I believe it is safe to say now and in eventual retrospect that this single is the new collection’s centerpiece performance. Chanel and her duet partner Senghor Robinson engage in an elegant yet emotive dance over the course of the song’s nearly four-minute duration. Both vocalists focus on playing off one another without even a hint of upstaging creeping into either performance and they share similar approaches. Note how they tailor their voices to suit the material rather than attempting to impose their will over the music. It's an intensely melodic song without ever seeming crass or too obvious. 

The interplay of two singers, piano, and horn forms the song’s topline attractions while the understated rhythm section provides its foundation. 2022 is unlikely to produce many songs as well-orchestrated without sounding bloodless. It has the right pulse, as well, thanks to how neatly the aforementioned piano reinforces the song’s percussive touch. The production could have added a little more authority, i.e. snap, but it doesn’t miss the mark entirely. As usual for a duet, the lyrics are written in a “dialogue”. Chanel and Robinson, however, avoid any staginess and lock into the song’s tasty groove. It relaxes them and helps shape their performances. Chanel has made her name as a first rate purveyor of modern R&B/soul, but she isn’t some sort of purist latching onto a recognizable style. Instead, “Sweetest of Melody” makes it clear she is at home with this musical vehicle rather than borrowing it. It comes across as natural as breathing. 

She inhabits each line with an unmistakable presence. There’s a light touch of sexiness in her breathy inflections, deceptive power in the way she lands on certain lines, and a nuanced flair for the dramatic in the way she wraps important lines. Listen to the choices she makes along the way, what she emphasizes, what she downplays. Rina Chanel is the proverbial complete package and linking her up with talented vocalist Senghor Robinson affords us an opportunity to hear her gifts in a different light. Chanel has more to show us. She has all the makings of a lifer, a performing artist intent on leaving her mark with audiences on her own terms. “Sweetest of Melody” covers countless miles moving in that direction. 

Scottie Carlito