From a relentlessly seductive sway to the most decadent of dirge-beats, grooves are always a cornerstone of the charisma pop singer Ilyah brings to his work. Songs like “The Only One” and “Girls Like You,” two of his biggest hits released in the last two years, are structured entirely around the concept of keeping the beats at the forefront of the mix. Ilyah’s honeysweet vocal harmonies entwine themselves with the rhythm of the percussion elegantly, and in his recent release “Habibi,” the tandem attack created by his carefully synchronized verses is even more enticing a sound than the instrumental melodies pushing them along. Fans who like something sexy to shake with can’t go wrong with this artist’s discography, which is growing more in 2020.
Outside of the beats, the music videos for “Miscommunication,” “Habibi,” “The Only One” and “Girls Like You” are visual stunners. In each of these videos, the imagery we’re faced with adds to the narrative, not only through color and texture, but through progressive-minded aesthetics as well. There’s a lot to take away from a song like “Miscommunication” without ever seeing the visual accompaniment Ilyah produced for it, but after watching it a few times through over this past weekend, I couldn’t help feeling as though I was beginning to understand the song properly for the first time. His is a very multilayered style of composing, and in material like this, we get another avenue through which we can explore what Ilyah is truly trying to express to us.
“Habibi,” which was released in late January, isn’t sporting nearly as physical a master mix as its predecessors did, but I honestly don’t think it needed any extra kick to make a big statement about where this artist is at right now. There’s a lot of tonal definition to the music here that tells me he isn’t as interested in quaking the floorboards as he is creating something thoroughly deep and provocative in presentation. Ilyah’s desire to expand upon elaborate constructs and songwriting techniques is far greater than the need to make something club-ready at this point in his life, and for what I look for in contemporary pop music, his approach is leading to some of the smartest content I’ve heard in a while.
There aren’t a lot of pop singers that have the sort of compositional wit and wisdom that Ilyah is boasting at the moment, and with a little more cultivation on his part, I can see his brand finding the commercial elevation it will need to launch his sound into super stardom a lot sooner than later. In the two years that have passed since dropping “The Only One,” he’s refined his skills amazingly well, and as far as his potential is concerned, I don’t need any convincing that he’s developing something incredible here. His unique style of melodicism and willingness to embrace both urban pop dexterousness as well as the cut and dry aesthetics of conventional R&B will make him famous, and more importantly, a well-respected musician around the world.