Peter Holslin is a staff music critic at NASA
One of the beautiful things about the world we live in today is that you can make the lushest, most pristine R&B and you won’t even need that many people to do it. That was clear last year with the Jack Moves, a Newark bedroom beat-making duo turned full on psychedelic soul production/songwriting squad. And I see that now with Kadhja Bonet, a singer, songwriter, arranger and producer behind the new single “Honeycomb.”
In an age when you can “fix it in the mix” — aka use Auto-Tune to punch up a singer’s warbling voice, or stitch together a capable guitar performance from clips of 100 marginal ones — Bonet seems to possess otherworldly talents. There’s not a whole lot about her online but all you need to really hear is “Honeycomb.” It’s like a James Bond theme song but better, with a glorious cinematic pacing creating a frame for subtle touches and avant-garde detours.
The groove is rock solid, the bass line melodious, but Bonet and her collaborators don’t lay things on too thick with the orchestral arrangement. The strings, flute and harp create a backdrop of lush color, with occasional flute runs breaking out as if to suggest there’s a greater intensity contained within.
Standing at the center of it all is Bonet, whose voice is like a goblet of pure gold. She has an unwavering command of melody, to the point where when she begins to sing, you stop cold. She’s also full of feeling, navigating the lines of melancholy and devotion in the lyrics. This point becomes obvious midway through “Honeycomb,” when she unfurls into an a cappella of multi-tracked vocal harmonies and sings: “All the stars burning in the sky / How can anyone see just one?”
Bonet’s debut album The Visitor is set for release on October 21 via Fat Possum and Fresh Selects. Here’s hoping we’ll hear more from this boundless artist for much time to come.