Sound Advice: Dropping (W8) by Jully Black
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Sound Advice: Dropping (W8) by Jully Black

R&B singer incorporates more club-friendly sounds.

Local R&B veteran Jully Black has spent the last decade pushing the boundaries of her genre, first threading hip hop and reggae into her music, then flirting with rock on 2009’s The Black Book. On her new album, Dropping (W8), she’s started to flirt with dance music.

“Pushin’ ” is a straight-up, hands-above-your-head-dancing, pop-house club anthem. “Feel So Good” is similarly pulsing, and feels like something Avicii could have produced. “Lies” sounds like traditional R&B at first, but the unusual breakbeat has definite echoes of drum and bass. (You can listen to “Lies” by clicking on the sample.) Most vocalists who work with modern dance music artists lack emotion and require extensive autotuning, but Black is almost a throwback to the vocal house of the late ’80s and early ’90s, with her big, soulful vocals accentuating the heavy beats. She may have made her name singing hooks for local rappers, but she also makes a hell of a dance-floor diva.

Dropping (W8) features club-friendly beats, but that doesn’t mean Black has dropped her other influences entirely. “Money Jane” fans will dig “Set it Off,” a collaboration with Kardinal Offishall that borrows from both hip hop and dancehall, while reggae beats form the backbone of “Hustling.”

The reason Black is able to blend other sounds into her style so adeptly is that her R&B foundation is so strong. She’s a gifted vocalist, able to both belt it out and play with nuances on tracks like the jazzy “Rebound.”

While she’s never received the sort of crossover success that she deserves, Jully Black has managed to stay relevant for over a decade, which is no small feat. Dropping (W8) is just another instance of her adapting in order to remain ahead of the curve.