[Written By // @shanglennon]
For the past several years, the Toronto music scene has been exploding with new talent with much of that talent budding from Drake’s OVO Sound label; PARTYNEXTDOOR and iLoveMakonnen being two of the acts boosted by a cosign from October’s Very Own. Jordan Ullman and Majid Al Maskati combine to form Majid Jordan, the synthpop duo next up on the label’s growing roster. They embrace the sound of groups like The Human League and Depeche Mode, occasionally incorporating a more alternative quality much like that of The Cure while still maintaining a hint of R&B. Most probably first heard of Majid Jordan from their contribution to the smash “Hold On (We’re Going Home)” off Drake’s Nothing Was The Same. The bridge they provided to arguably one of Drake’s most successful songs helped launch their name from the background into the conscience of the everyday music fan.
While Jordan hails from Toronto, Majid arrived in the city by way of Bahrain. They met at the University of Toronto and started making music in their dorm rooms, releasing their first EP, Afterhours, under the original moniker of Good People. Followed up by A Place Like This, their first release as Majid Jordan, we’re given an initial peek into the duo’s musicality. The 5-track EP (released mid-2014) was led by the title track single and “Her” – a thick, beat driven love song. For their eponymous debut, they teamed with OVO’s in-house producers Nineteen85, 40, and longtime Weeknd collaborator Illangelo and were clearly aiming for an audience who would be familiar with those names. While not identical to other artists OVO employs, they certainly are an extension of that lineup and fit well within the collective. Aside from the assist on four of the tracks on the self-titled project, the duo are the main producers on every song and have only one feature which comes from Drake himself (and if “My Love” doesn’t sound like a Drake song then I know nothing about music).
The opening track (“Learn From Each Other”) gets you right into the groove of things with a beat worth bobbing along to. Several songs on this album are layered with enough synthesizers to sound like remixes instead of originals which, in part, is what gives the album its synthpop vibe. “Day and Night,” and the second single, “Something About You,” could certainly be heard in any club, but that’s not a dig in any way. That livelier, more up tempo production is balanced nicely with smoother, more melancholic tracks such as “Love Is Always There” (a slow, trippy plea to an indifferent woman) and the stand out “King City” with ambiguous lyrics that allow for subjective interpretation. “Small Talk” weaves between the fear and doubt of wanting to give up everything for a person and not fully knowing if you should. With lyrics like, “I’ve already said too much and I don’t wanna rush right now, but I feel so far away. I don’t wanna rush right now. I gotta talk to you. Am I making a mistake?” we’re presented with the uncertainty that many relationships have to navigate.
“Warm” is the sleeper track that takes a few listens to heat up. It slowly grabs your attention and would most likely be played in a dark hookah lounge among very beautiful women (music video idea?) “Shake Shake Shake” has a fast beat that layers optimistic lyrics atop an ominous melody. The mysterious “Pacifico” and the passionate words used on “Make It Work” cater the most to that romantic synthpop sound. The closing track “Every Step Every Way” rounds the album out nicely by bringing that dense synth beat together with uplifting lyrics.
I wouldn’t necessarily listen to any track on its own and while I don’t believe it was made to have radio singles, as a whole the album is well done. I appreciate projects that have minimal features because it lets the listener hear the artist without the clutter of guest verses and added content that can sometimes feel out of place and excessive. Albums can sometimes get lost in too much of the same sound and be boring to listen to. While I stand by my statement that this album is meant to be heard as a whole, each song takes on its own life with breathy vocals and high quality production that Majid Jordan is slowly becoming known for.
- “Small Talk”
- “King City”
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